Alarm bells are ringing for Punjab, which seems to be in the midst of a severe dengue epidemic this year, with three deaths and 909 cases reported in the past two months. And the worst, the peak outbreak season is yet to set in.
According to Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), Punjab, the number has by far surpassed dengue cases reported in the state last year, which stood at 472. “Dengue has a set pattern in the state. The cases soar every alternate year,” said Dr Gagandeep Singh Grover, Punjab IDSP in-charge. Experts say dengue cases were less last year due to deficient monsoon.
BATHINDA WORST AFFECTED
The IDSP report puts Bathinda as the worst-affected districts in the state which has reported 295 dengue cases so far. It is followed by Ludhiana and Jalandhar with 111 and 69 cases, respectively.
“The cases are likely to go up till November-end,” said Dr Grover. Experts say the next 60-70 days are crucial as there can be a spike in dengue cases. The sting of the mosquito is already getting sharper with the rising number of dengue cases increasing fears of a possible outbreak in the coming days, they say.
Alarmed over the rising number of cases, Punjab health minister Surjit Kumar Jayani on Thursday said a control room had been set up at Chandigarh which would submit hourly reports to the authorities for optimum utilisation of resources to ensure early detection and eradication of the disease. He also asked the health authorities to join hands with the civic authorities to ensure foolproof preventive and curative measures.
PRIVATE DOCTORS MAKE A KILLING
With symptoms of dengue similar to common cold and flu, private hospitals are cashing in on the panic. A Bathinda resident, Paramjeet Singh, said he and his wife were treated for “dengue” in a private hospital and were made to pay more than `1 lakh. “We were told that we both were suffering from dengue. But surprisingly, our blood samples were not sent to the civil hospital,” he said.
Even as the government hospitals provide free treatment to dengue patients, people prefer to visit private clinics and hospitals which charge a minimum of `60,000 for complete treatment. “I have no faith in health facilities provided at government hospitals,” said Paramjeet.
Though two dengue wards have been set up at the Bathinda civil hospital, most of the beds are empty. District epidemiologist Rajpal Singh said: “There is no need to admit a dengue patient in all cases. In most cases, paracetamol tablets are given to control the fever and high liquid intake is recommended. A patient is admitted after the platelet count in the body goes below 10,000.”
Health teams are on their toes in Bathinda and are carrying out surveys, besides fogging is being done in the affected areas.
NUMBER COULD BE HIGHER
District epidemiologist, Amritsar, Dr Des Raj said the health authorities were facing a major challenge in verifying tests being conducted by private hospitals. Several private hospitals in Bathinda, for instance, were not sending blood samples of suspected patients to the civil hospital for MAC-ELISA or NS-1 antigen ELISA tests which confirm dengue. These hospitals are conducting complete blood count (CBC) tests for platelets and card tests for dengue and treating patients without confirming the disease. The tests are being conducted free of cost at civil hospitals.
Last week, Bathinda civil surgeon Dr Tejwant Singh Randhawa found some private hospitals treating dengue patients without reporting the cases to the civil hospital authorities. “Every private clinic or hospital has to report the suspected cases to the civil hospital so the health authorities could know from where the cases are being reported. Fogging has to be carried out in the affected areas and the area residents have to be counselled,” said a health official.
DUG-UP ROADS INCREASING PROBLEM IN AMRITSAR
Dr Des Raj said many areas in Amritsar have been dug up for the ongoing work of the Bus Rapid Transit System. “The pits filled with water are a perfect breeding ground for the aedes aegypti mosquito that causes dengue,” he said.
While the health authorities in Amritsar claim to have set up five dengue wards, the HT team found only one patient in the ward set up at Guru Nanak Dev Hospital, while the dengue ward set up at the civil hospital was found locked.
Only one doctor has been deployed to look after the dengue ward at the civil hospital, while no special duties have been assigned to other doctors. “Many patients are admitted to Fortis Escorts Hospital and Sri Guru Ram Das Hospital which also have special dengue wards,” said Dr Des Raj.
GOVT CLAIMS FALL FLAT IN JALANDHAR
The claims of the health department are nowhere close to reality. In Jalandhar, a reality check of the preparations revealed a sorry picture. While the health department had claimed to set up an isolation ward at the 400-bedded Shaheed Babu Labh Singh Civil Hospital for dengue patients with 10 beds fitted with mosquito nets, there were only six beds for the purpose. The ward is also not being maintained properly with foul smell was emanating from it.
IDSP officer Dr DB Gupta said a special team of doctors had been set up to deal with suspected dengue cases, but when the HT team visited the isolation ward, nobody seemed to be aware of any such team. He, however, claimed that medical teams were visiting door-to-door and distributing medicines free of cost. A survey and fogging is being carried out in the affected areas, he said, adding that mosquito nets had been provided at the isolation ward and two sub-divisional hospitals at Nakodar and Phillaur and 12 community health centres in the district.
STUDENTS ADVISED TO WEAR FULL SLEEVES IN LUDHIANA
To avoid mosquitoes bite, students have been asked to wear full sleeves while going to school. Deputy commissioner Rajat Agarwal said 12 beds had been earmarked for dengue patients at the civil hospital while special wards had also been set up in private hospitals for dengue patients. Labs carrying out dengue tests have been directed to remain open 24X7, he added.
District epidemiologist, Ludhiana, Dr Ramesh Kumar said special wards had been set up at private hospitals. He said adequate stock of platelets was available at blood banks. “Our teams are conducting a survey in the district and are sanitising the areas from where dengue cases are being reported. Patients with high fever, severe headache, joint or muscle pain, nausea etc should immediately consult their nearest health centre,” he said. On Saturday, the district administration also fined more than 500 residents for not cleaning their coolers.
With inputs from Shaheen P Parshad, Jatinder Kohli and Sondeep Singh Sandhu