The Telegraph
Friday, October 20, 2017

Fever on prowl, not too far from city

- Dengue or not, deganga hit by testing shortcomings
The girl with fever awaits her mother outside the Biswanathpur primary health centre. Picture by Sanjib Chaki

Deganga, Oct. 12: The seven-year-old girl lay alone on a concrete bench. In a barely audible voice, she said she had fever.

Her mother was somewhere in the long queue outside the block health centre, 100 yards from where the child lay, waiting to collect medicines for her.

This reportercould not locate the mother among the several hundred men and women in the queue. Almost all had fever, or were relatives of someone with fever.

The scores of people suffering from fever for the past few weeks at Deganga in North 24-Parganas, 45km from the heart of Calcutta, think they have dengue. But in the absence of adequate or affordable testing facilities, the administration has been quibbling over the diagnosis.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today said only one of eight deaths attributed to dengue in Habra and Deganga was caused by dengue.

"A section of the media has been reporting that thousands are suffering from dengue in these two areas but our team did not find it to be true," she told a news conference. "Of the four deaths in Deganga, none was caused by dengue. In Habra, only one of the four died of dengue."

Krishnagopal Sashmal, a young doctor at the Biswanathpur block primary health centre, said: "We have been treating about 1,000 patients with fever every day. We are sending blood samples to the district hospital at Barasat, around 20km from here, for tests."

At Chandpur, 5km from the health centre, at least a dozen villagers claimed that 13 residents had died of fever in the past two weeks.

The death certificate of Rabeya Bibi, former Trinamul member of the Deganga-I gram panchayat who died on Tuesday, cites cardiac arrest, her family said. "It doesn't mention the fever at all," her son said.

Dengue itself doesn't kill but can cause complications like multi-organ failure that do. The health establishment is being accused of focusing on the final cause of death and not what led to it.

Rabeya's brother-in-law, Akbar Ali Mondal, died last night. He too had fever. Akbar's daughter-in-law Tanuja said: "My son Alamin Mondal and daughter Papia Sultana have dengue. At least one member of each family in our village has fever."

Three deaths from fever were reported today: Rashida Bibi, 34, and Chanera Bibi, 38, died in Deganga and Babon Das, 7, in Habra.

The two doctors at the health centre struggled to cope with the rush. At 2pm, issuing tickets to patients was suspended and they were told to come back tomorrow, a health centre official said.

Some of the patients have test reports from a local private clinic. A preliminary dengue test (NS1 antigen) there costs Rs 550. So, most have only obtained a platelet count, which costs Rs 70 but only signifies infection and not its cause.

"A dengue test is not available at the health centre," farmer Mustafa Mandal, who had come from nearby Nasimpur, said.

Health department officials acknowledged receiving reports of fever cases but were silent on dengue.

"We are sending samples to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, and Nimhans, Bangalore, in case of 'unknown' fever," Biswaranjan Satpathi, director of health services, said. "We found 25 per cent cases to be AES (acute encephalitis syndrome) and could save them with specific medicines."

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