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Panic attack in city

india Updated: Oct 14, 2006 13:49 IST
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If it is fever, it has to be dengue — that appears to be the perception ratcheting up panic levels in the city. The disease has claimed 25 lives in the city so far— the last death occurred on Thursday, again at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Seventy-year-old Savita, who died of dengue shock syndrome (DSS), was brought in from Ballabhgarh in the afternoon. She succumbed to the deadliest strain of the dengue virus at 4.30 in the evening.

As dengue panic grips the city, even private hospitals are having to work overtime. Most are full — some even have waiting lists — because many patients with fever are willing to pay whatever it takes to get admitted into a hospital.

"All fever cases are not dengue but such is the panic that everyone with fever rushes to a hospital asking to be admitted. Some even get platelet counts done before coming to the hospital. Just answering phone calls and reassuring patients is taking up a lot of time and stretching everybody," says Dr Anupam Sibal, director, medical services, Apollo Hospital.

All the 150 beds at Fortis Hospital in Noida are occupied, with an average of five patients being turned away each night. "We admit only those with symptoms of very high fever or those with a platelet count of less than 1 lakh/cubic mm," says Dr Uma Nambiar, medical superintendent, Fortis Noida. The normal platelet range is 1.5 to 4.5 lakh/mm3. "So great is the panic that people think every fever is dengue and we have patients insisting to be admitted even when doctors say there is no need," says Dr Nambiar.

Over the past two weeks, Batra Hospital in south Delhi has had 100 per cent occupancy, up from the its average 60 per cent. "Though we are 'overfull', we are not turning patients away," says Dr Maheshwari Sharma, medical superintendent, Batra. "We treat everyone with high fever as a suspected dengue case and we admit them. The platelet count is done after admission," says Dr Sharma.

Max Patparganj in east Delhi is full, and patients were told they could not be accommodated on Wednesday night because there was a "wait-list" of 25 patients. "You have to pull strings even to get a paying bed in a private hospital," complains a patient, who finally did just that for a bed in a private hospital on Thursday.

In the rural outskirts of Delhi, a few doctors are cashing in on the alarm to make a fast buck. Dayalpur village in Haryana is home to just 6,700 people, but the dozen clinics and nursing homes in the vicinity are turning patients away. "There have been several cases of fever lately and villagers are panicking, thanks to doctors looking to make easy money. They tell all patients with complaints of fever that they have dengue and admit them to their own nursing homes," says Sarpanch Dharam Pal, 68.

Doctors at the primary health centre (PHC) get over 100 people with complaints of fever each day, but had confirmed nine cases till Wednesday.

Hem Wati, 38, got fever on Sunday and was advised to get admitted in a private clinic even before her blood test showed a platelet count of 1.17 lakh/ cubic mm. She was first taken to a government hospital but her son Hansvir Rodha was not happy with the treatment. "Government doctors just gave us two medicines — paracetamol for fever and quinine — but the private doctor in the city gave us five medicines," says Rodha.

Hem Wati was prescribed nimuselide for fever, a corticosteroid called prednisolone, cetirizine for allergy, digene for indigestion, and the antibiotic ciprofloxacin. Rodha finds it hard to believe that the only medicine needed to treat dengue is the ubiquitous paracetaol.

"It is dangerous to prescribe aspirin and steroids because it aggravates bleeding. Since dengue is a viral infection, the only treatment is easing symptoms of fever and pain using paracetamol and replacing body fluids," says a doctor at the PHC. But with patients in panic, unscrupulous doctors are making the most of the situation.

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