Dengue Outbreak: Didi Turns Blind Eye as 45 Die of ‘Unknown’ Fever

Despite 45 dengue deaths in North 24 Parganas district, Mamata government refuses to acknowledge a health crisis.

Health News
4 min read

A sense of fear is palpable as panicked villagers are seen rushing their loved ones to the nearest health centre on mere suspicion of fever.

Residents of Deganga block in Barasat sub-division of North 24 Parganas feel exasperated as they reveal horrific tales of seeing either their neighbour or a loved one succumbing to an ‘unknown’ fever.

Villagers claim that around 45 people have died of the ‘unknown’ fever over the last three months. While locals blame dengue for the deaths, the Bengal government is not willing to acknowledge that the silent killer is in fact the deadly mosquito-borne disease.

Also Read: Dengue, Chikungunya Are Preventable – Stop Pretending They Aren’t

‘Death Certificate Doesn’t Mention Dengue’

Hapless villagers are accusing the state government of gross neglect and not doing enough to address the health crisis.

What has fuelled their anger is the recent claim by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that nobody has died of dengue in Deganga. On 12 October, while adressing media personnel at Nabanna, the state secretariat, which is merely 60 kilometres from Deganga, Banerjee put the onus on private diagnostic centres as she accused them of blowing things out of proportion.

Satyajit Das, who lost his mother on 10 October, is not ready to buy the chief minister’s theory. On 7 October, when Das took his mother to a private nursing home, medical reports clearly mentioned that she was suffering from dengue fever. What has appalled him is that the death certificate issued by the government hospital recorded the cause of death as ‘cardiorespiratory failure due to severe sepsis and enteric fever’.

My mother died of dengue but the death certificate didn’t mention anything about that. It is really sad that they are trying to suppress the truth. Instead of setting up health camps for patients, the government is trying to portray that everything is fine when the situation is quite grim.
Satyajit Das, Resident, Deganga (North 24 Parganas district)

Shortage of Blood in Emergency Situation

On condition of anonymity, senior government officials admit that strict instructions have been issued to both private as well as government hospitals, to refrain from mentioning dengue as the cause of death.

The government fears that it might face uncomfortable questions if dengue is mentioned as the cause of death. Doctors fear a government crackdown, especially when the chief minister is holding the health portfolio.
A senior health official 

Barely a few metres away from Satyajit’s house, Atabul Sheikh is inconsolable. Three of his relatives who are suffering from dengue have been admitted to a government hospital in Kolkata. His primary concern is now that arranging blood for his ailing relatives is becoming a task with every passing day.

Angry over the recent statement by the chief minister, he pleaded for help:

I request you with folded hands to please do something for us. The situation is turning from bad to worse. I am unable to arrange blood for my relatives. How can she make such an inhumane statement?
Atabul Sheikh, Resident, Deganga (North 24 Parganas district)

Overcrowded Hospitals

State-run Institute of Blood Transfusion Medicine and Immunohaematology, commonly known as the Central Blood Bank in Kolkata is fraught with severe shortage of platelets with almost none being available as on 13 October 2017. People suffering from dengue need to have adequate platelet count for their survival.

Md Mofizul Haq, a lottery agent in Bhasila village in Deganga shared his tragic experience about how he woke up every morning, unable to bear the screams of people, mourning the deaths of their loved ones:

Not a single day has passed in the past three months when I didn’t hear about people dying of an ‘unknown’ fever. It has become a daily routine. More than 45 people have died of dengue in the last three months. The bleaching powder and other material used to preventing Aedes aegypti mosquito from breeding is of inferior quality and mixed with lime.
Md Mofizul Haq

Long queues of people can be seen outside hospitals as waiting for hours to for blood tests.

At Habra State General Hospital in Deganga, Utpal Sarkar, who is attending to his mother said:

I left home at 7 in the morning and reached here at 9 am. Since then I am standing in a queue. It has been five hours and her blood sample is yet to be taken. The situation is very serious.

The Medical Superintendent of the hospital, however, tried to downplay the situation:

There are mere panic attacks with people rushing to the hospital unnecessarily.
Sankar Lal Ghosh, Medical Superintendent

Quacks Try to Fill the Vacuum

The half-hearted and indifferent attitude of the administration has given rise to quacks that are treating patients in every nook and corner of villages.

Many houses have been turned into illegal nursing homes where glucose is being administered to patients suffering from the ‘unknown’ fever.

I have treated over 400 patients though I hold no MBBS degree. I am an assistant to a doctor but when people come to me crying for help after being turned away by government hospitals, what can I do?
Md Alamgir Hussain

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

Also Read: All About Dengue: Watch Out For These Symptoms!

(The writer is a Kolkata-based freelance journalist. He can be reached @gurus3398 .)

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