Reportedly 76 people died in
Kerala with Chikungunya and nearly 128,500 cases of Dengue have been reported nation-wide causing severe strain on an ill-equipped and ill-motivated system to deal with the crisis on a war footing. Unofficial estimates of those infected with Chiungunya are at 50,000 cited as reason why local courts and schools have shut down.
Health Minister Anbumani Ramdoss denied that the deaths in Kerala were due to Chikungunya asserting that “people do not die of the viral” and that the deaths were due to “secondary complications” and that they will carry out “verbal autopsy” to determine actual cause of death.
Experts from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases say that a possible second virus, most probably the West Nile Virus or Dengue, may also be causing the deaths. Teams from the NICD, National Institute of Virology (NIV), and World Health Organization (WHO) visited the fever-infested areas and tested 14 samples of while four tested positive for Chikungunya and the other 10 negative. The experts refused divulge information as yet as “advanced tests” is required to determine the disease.
With no vaccines available, Chikungunya is a weather-oriented disease and comes from poor sanitary conditions and has come to India after 32 years and the only cure is for the patient to take the drug paracetomol and drink a lot of water. Ramdoss says that his Ministry has been unable to deal with the crisis because the nation has two laboratories one in Delhi and another in Pune and none to serve the South and his recommendation is to open a new laboratory to service the South but that would take more than 2 years to setup.
In the meanwhile, Ramdoss has called for meeting of Health Ministers from all the states afflicted by Chikungunya on October 11 when he says that concrete proposals including funding requirements will be outlined. Even assuming that the deaths are due to “secondary complications,” it is not clear what actions his Ministry will initiate to stem the dangerous trend of deaths. An all party meet in Kerala decided to launch a state-wide mosquito-eradication program and cleanliness drive with the help of local bodies but did not say what it will do to prevent such outbreaks in the future. Displaying remarkable lack of understanding of the seriousness, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan announced a Rs. 2 lakh (USD 4,500) allocation per district to fight the disease which is clearly insufficient to address the large scale deaths and infections.
With more than hundred thousand infections of Dengue in recent times, Ramdoss
says that the 600 infections in the last few days do not mean that there is an
epidemic outbreak. Of this 600, most of the cases have been in New Delhi and
more than 30 have died, including 12 from the capital.
Uttar Pradesh (UP)
with 131 cases, Haryana
with 52, and Rajasthan with 9 are the other states that have reported an outbreak.
To combat this outbreak, Ramdoss says that his Ministry will “create mass awareness and for that” has co-opted the help of “school children and the Indian Medical Association.” He asserted that there was an adequate supply of blood and platelets to meet the demand but said “the authorities cannot check each and every house to prevent breeding of Aedes mosquitoes.” This once again highlights the lack of seriousness and capacity of this Minister to be able to deal with such crisis.
Most reasonable people would concede that it is impossible to prevent an outbreak in a country like India that is replete with bad local governance, bad sanitary facilities, and awareness. However, most reasonable people would also expect a timetable or an action plan from the Health Ministry that would check the outbreak and also initiate enough measures that will reduce the chance of an outbreak in the future. By highlighting the impossible positions, Ramdoss seems to absolve himself of responsibility.