Calcutta, Oct. 6: Dengue cases in Bengal so far are less than last year, but cause for concern lies elsewhere — absence of quality diagnostic kits, experts say.
Not only that, there is only one place in all of Bengal that has the facility for testing chikungunya, a virus that is carried by the same mosquito which causes dengue. Threat of the disease, widespread in Kerala where a chikungunya epidemic has been declared, breaking out in Bengal has arisen at Baduria, North 24-Parganas.
Some 2,000 people at Baduria are suffering from a mysterious fever with symptoms of high temperature, severe body ache and vomiting. Only the School of Tropical Medicine (STM) can run tests for chikungunya.
“The symptoms are similar to that of chikungunya and we have sent samples for serum tests to STM and the National Institute of Virology, Pune, for confirmation,” said health minister Surjyakanta Mishra after a meeting with a World Health Organisation team where chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was present.
While chikungunya is still in the realm of possibility, dengue has claimed three lives so far in Calcutta and diagnosis could become difficult if there is a shortage of effective diagnostic kits.
“The good kits have dried up and kits used for confirming dengue in many laboratories are not up to the standard,” Amitabha Nandi, a specialist in tropical medicine and parasitic diseases, told The Telegraph.
A kit imported from Korea is rated by all diagnostic centres as the most reliable. “Last month around 1,000 kits had arrived in Delhi with which 25,000 samples can be tested. However, since there is great demand for these kits in Delhi and Haryana, they did not reach here,” a distributor said.
Doctors, too, complained. “Although we have kits in the major hospitals, middle-level pathological centres are facing a shortage,” said Subrata Maitra, a critical care expert.
Most hospitals and laboratories, however, claimed to be equipped with kits.
The health minister said: “The state government is careful and there is no need to worry.” Mishra said till September this year, 400 cases of dengue were reported, which were much less than last year.
At Baduria, medical camps have been set up. “The symptoms suggest chikungunya, but we are awaiting test reports,” said K. K. Adhikary, the district’s chief medical officer.
An unofficial report tonight suggested dengue had been confirmed in one of the Baduria villagers.
But if there is chikungunya, a testing-facility crisis could occur. “It is not viable to maintain the facilities even when there are no cases here,” said an official of a leading private diagnostic centre.
The School of Tropical Medicine is equipped for over 40 years. “In 1963, when the first case of chikungunya was reported in the country, STM had documented it,” said D.K. Niyogi, director.
A new dengue case — a woman at Beliaghata — was reported today. The condition of a 48-year-old man from Lake Gardens was critical.
Unlike dengue, rash is uncommon
Severe pain and tenderness in joints
Haemorrhage not known to occur, therefore risk of death lower than in dengue
Severe muscle pain but joint pain is minimum
Haemorrhage in extreme cases can cause death
The mosquito that causes chikungunya and dengue is the same Aedes Aegypti that bites in the morning, not at night. Some other breeds like Aedes Africanus,
Culex Fatigans and Culex Tritaeniorhynchus could also cause chikungunya