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New illness in Delhi

india Updated: Aug 29, 2006 05:31 IST
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Viral fever has taken a more menacing avatar this season. In the Capital, people are reporting high fever accompanied by nausea, joint pain and headache that refuse to respond to medication like paracetamol for the first few days.

Frightening though it may sound, the symptoms are like chikungunya's - a viral disease that spreads through Aedes mosquito and has struck parts of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

Says Dr Sunil Gambhir, professor of paediatrics, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital: "Though chikungunya has never occurred in Delhi, I wouldn't be surprised if some cases are reported here as people travelling to other states may come back infected with the virus."

The symptoms are fever that lasts 7-10 days, headache, fatigue, nausea, muscle pain and rashes. Acute infection may need hospitalisation and will last up to a couple of weeks. Joint pain and fatigue last for several weeks in some patients. "In severe cases, joints also swell up," says Gambhir.

There is no vaccine or specific anti-viral treatment for chikungunya and the only way to treat is to bring down the fever and pain by having paracetamol, ibuprofen or naproxen. Since it is a form of platelet dysfunction like dengue, patients should avoid aspirin.

The only way to detect the virus is to send blood samples to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) for serology tests. Since the disease has never occurred in Delhi before, no one - neither health officials nor those infected - has bothered with the tests. "I don't know anything about it. It comes under the malaria programme," says NICD director Shiv Lal.