Saturday, September 30, 2006

Minister confirms chikungunya deaths in Kerala

Kerala Health Minister P K Sreemathy yesterday confirmed that all the 48 fever-related deaths reported in Alappuzha recently were of chikungunya, a day after she was corrected by Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan in the State Assembly.

"What the chief minister said was correct. All the deaths were due to chikungunya," she told a news conference here yesterday.

At least 300 people have died of chikungunya in the past three months in several Indian states but doctors and health officials in Kerala have been saying that they could not confirm any death in the state due to the disease, which is a rare form of viral fever caused by an alphavirus.

Achuthanandan corrected the minister in the Assembly on Thursday after she reported the officials’ findings of the doctors to the House.

A latest report from the federal health ministry said that nearly 1mn people had been affected by the disease across the country and it had killed 300 of them.

Health officials in Kerala said nearly 40,000 people were suffering from acute forms of viral fevers in Alappuzha district, home to the chief minister.

But the health minister informed the house on Thursday that the government was yet to reach a conclusion whether the deaths were caused by the chikungunya.

Health officials have collected blood samples of people hit with the viral fever to determine whether it is chikungunya while the government has decided to give financial aid of Rs25,000 each to the families of those who have died due to suspected chikungunya disease.

Chikungunya is a relatively rare form of viral fever caused by an alphavirus that is spread by mosquito bites and it is generally not fatal. Symptoms include fever which can reach 390C, a petechial or maculopapular rash usually involving the limbs and trunk, and arthralgia or arthritis affecting multiple joints which can be debilitating. They could also include headache, conjunctival infection and slight photophobia.

According to Achuthanandan, health department officials had misled the minister and, following contradictory reports, he had decided to garner firsthand information and visited the hospitals in Alappuzha district to be convinced.

"The symptoms described by the patients and their helpers prove they are affected by chikungunya and not suffering from water-borne diseases as has been reported," he said.

This was in contradiction to Sreemathy’s statement that most of the deaths were actually due to leptospirosis, heart diseases or underlying diseases of the liver or kidney.

"As per the medical investigations into the reported deaths due to chikungunya in Cherthala, most of those who died were suffering from chronic diseases, which were further complicated by the onset of viral fever," she had said, adding that reports saying people were dying due to chikungunya would only serve to create panic among the public.

She, however, said yesterday that all measures, including redeployment of extra medical and paramedical staff, provision of medicines and mosquito control measures had been adopted in all areas from where the disease has been reported.

"Teams of medical experts, including entomologists and epidemiologists, have already been deployed at the affected areas in Cherthala for detailed investigations into the outbreak," she said.

"Sustained vector control programme is the only way in which the disease can be contained and this has to be achieved with community participation. Steps are being taken to intensify fogging and source reduction measures in affected districts," she said.

Meanwhile, four more deaths were reported from Cherthala yesterday afternoon and 1,752 new cases of the fever were reported. The health minister also visited the affected areas, her third visit in a week.


Post a Comment

<< Home