Saturday, October 07, 2006

India's Mosquito-Borne Dengue Outbreak Called "Serious" as Death Toll Rises

As reported by the Agencie-Presse France

By Pratap Chakravarty

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's health secretary described a continuing outbreak of dengue fever as serious as the death toll rose and thousands of people reported ill at overwhelmed hospitals.

Indian Health Secretary P.K. Hota appealed for calm after 3,331 cases of the mosquito-borne virus were reported across the country and the death toll increased from 40 to 49 in two days.
"The situation is serious," Hota told a news conference.

"Difficult times are upon as in the past seven days the number of dengue cases have gone up," he said, adding that it was likely to rise further until cool weather arrived in early November.
Chaotic scenes were played out at hospitals across the capital, one of the worst hit areas, where 19 people have so far died.

Thousands of people suspected of having the virus were crowding New Delhi's premier hospital, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where 5,670 have been screened since Tuesday, officials said.

Eighty-two new patients were admitted to AIIMS on Saturday taking the number of cases to 825, an official said.

"Only those who need emergency medical attention are being admitted," said another official, Anil Sharma.

"We are facing a severe manpower and resource crunch as suspected dengue patients are pouring in from all over to AIIMS but we don't have infrastructure to deal with this situation," said Sharma, a doctor at AIIMS where one medical student died of the disease earlier this week and more than a dozen of his colleagues remain stricken.

AIIMS spokesman Shakti Gupta said: "The health ministry must ensure that other city hospitals are also pressed into service to handle this dengue deluge."

Scuffles broke out at overcrowded Safdarjung Hospital where people were also queuing for diagnosis and treatment.

"I have been standing in the queue with my handicapped son since 5:00 am and we have been waiting more than seven hours," shouted one man in the line, Umesh Gujjar.

A dengue outbreak in the capital claimed more than 400 lives in 1996 when 10,000 people fell sick. There is no specific treatment or vaccine against the illness but early detection can improve chances of survival.

The illness is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and causes a severe, flu-like illness and internal bleeding.

Similar chaotic scenes were reported in the northern city of Jaipur, the Press Trust of India reported.

Meanwhile, B. K. Chaturvedi, India's cabinet secretary, urged "people to act as health constables" in a bid to stop breeding of the mosquitoes in collected pools of water.

"People are burning whatever they consider is a possible mosquito breeding place or are randomly spraying insecticides into drinking water tanks, houses and offices," said Uday Ekka, a resident of the eastern city of Ranchi.