The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sting shield to keep dengue out

Siliguri, Sept. 7: Dengue has taken epidemic proportions in Calcutta and its neighbouring districts, but north Bengal has been largely free from the deadly virus so far, barring one reported case from Siliguri that needs to be investigated further.

Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra today took stock of the situation in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar during a routine meeting with senior civic and health officials of the three districts. 'Unlike last year, when Siliguri had (reported) some dengue cases, there has been no such case in north Bengal this year, barring a single case in Siliguri, but the patient may have been afflicted elsewhere,' said Mishra. The minister, who is accompanied by principal secretary, health, Kalyan Bagchi, will review the health situation in the other districts of the region ' Malda, North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur ' at a meeting in Malda tomorrow.

To ensure early detection of the disease in the region, the government has provided an Elisa testing kit to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH). 'We received the kit today. It has been kept at the department of microbiology,' said NBMCH principal Sangeeta Bhattacharya.

Similar kits have also been provided to hospitals in Burdwan and Midnapore, the health minister said.

The NBMCH has decided to set up an emergency medical team comprising specialists in community medicine, general medicine and pathology or microbiology to meet any eventuality. 'The team has been set up at the instructions of the health secretary, and will also be visiting Balurghat and Malda,' said Bhattacharya, who also attended today's review meeting. She said her hospital has been on high alert for the past two weeks but is yet to receive or diagnose any dengue cases. At the behest of Siliguri Municipal Corporation, a 24-hour 'fever cell' has been opened last week at the Siliguri subdivisional hospital.

The health minister, however, advised the people against being complacent. He said the number of confirmed cases in the state has gone up to 1,052, most of them from Calcutta and its neighbouring districts. Of the 16 reported dengue deaths, 10 have been confirmed. 'The situation is under control. There is no cause for alarm, but things can't be taken lightly either,' the minister said.

Only yesterday, the health secretary had stated that the dengue epidemic had gone 'beyond control' in Calcutta, with the number of cases, as also the deaths, increasing daily. Mishra also reiterated that dengue has taken an epidemic form in the state.

Calcutta mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, whose city has reported the maximum number of dengue cases, had contended that dengue had not reached epidemic proportions. Mishra himself has been accused of ignoring the initial warning of a dengue outbreak by calling it media hype.

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