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Fresh look at dengue duel

- Notifiable-disease status for scourge of the season after CM rises to challenge

The health department has classified dengue as a “notifiable disease”, taking the cue from Mamata Banerjee’s stamp of “maratmak (deadly)” on a vector-borne virus that had been stinging the city since July without the authorities wincing once.

The administration’s rise from stupor means all hospitals in the state, public and private, would need to keep the health department updated about each confirmed case of dengue.

“A report shall be submitted by each clinical establishment to the licensing authority as soon as a person who has been received or accommodated or both in that clinical establishment is found suffering from dengue,” the notification states.

The toll in the current outbreak stands at 12 in Calcutta and four in the rest of the state. A 22-year-old homemaker died of complications caused by the virus in Behrampore on Thursday morning.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation, which had snoozed through most of the past three weeks when the rate of infection shot up across the city, declared it would fight dengue on a war footing.

If public discontent over the government’s lame response to the outbreak was a wake-up call for the chief minister, her second dengue briefing at Writers’ in three days called her party colleagues’ bluff on the disease being under control.

“I was asking (critical care expert) Subrata Maitra (about the disease)…. He told me that there is often nothing to do when a dengue patient is taken to hospital at the last moment. It’s a maratmak (deadly) virus,” she said. “If you are running a temperature, please go get your blood tested to be on the safe side. And don’t wait for treatment till the confirmatory test report comes.”

Mamata the chief administrator coming to the fore to lead the fight against dengue marks a change from Mamata the chief minister’s initial propensity to deny any eventuality.

Just four days ago, mayor and Trinamul MLA Sovan Chatterjee had said dengue in Calcutta was being “blown out of proportion for the sake of business”. On Monday, urban development minister Firhad Hakim came up with an even better excuse to sit tight. “Dengue is a natural phenomenon. The government alone can’t check it,” he said.

But Mamata striding on to the dengue battlefield has ensured babudom can no longer play passive observer.

Biswa Ranjan Satpathi, the director of health services, said on Thursday that “more data on the disease” had already started coming to the government from various hospitals. But he wouldn’t divulge the numbers. “We will be able to build a dengue-specific databank. More importantly, it will help us map the areas where the incidence of the disease has been high and step up preventive activity there.”

The decision to make dengue a notifiable disease puts it in the league of kala-azar, cholera, small pox, polio, yellow fever, tuberculosis and plague. All medical establishments are bound by law to report any notifiable disease to the government.

Doctors said making dengue a notifiable disease would also help the health department prioritise allocation of funds for preventive steps.

Mamata’s dengue diary for Thursday included a visit to the Calcutta Medical Research Institute (CMRI) in the morning, where 24 patients have tested positive for the disease.

According to an official, Mamata was happy with the arrangements for dengue treatment and asked the hospital staff to help economically poor patients as much as possible.

The chief minister told reporters at Writers’ later that she had asked the civic body to come up with a detailed list of dos and don’ts. “We will be advertising the list in the media once we get it,” she said.

Mamata the de facto doctor signed off with a prescription no-no: “Whatever you do, don’t take Saridon, which is a banned drug in any case. If you have fever, just take Calpol and saline drip. Also check the expiry date of the medicine.”