Amid rising paediatric cases of a ‘mystery’ fever that has taken six lives so far, the West Bengal Health Department has decided to send an expert committee to North Bengal on Friday.
The move came as a political debate started after the Bharatiya Janata Party complained of negligence by the Mamata Banerjee government in handling the ‘unknown’ fever of the children.
According to a statement issued by the state health department altogether 1,195 children have been admitted in different state government hospitals in North Bengal with complaints of fever, cough and stomach ache. Giving a comparative figure of the previous years the state health department, however, said that this spike is natural during this time of the year.
According to data provided by the department in 2017 between September 1 and 15, there were 2,279 cases; in 2018 it was 2,049 and in 2019 it was 2,083. In 2020, the figure was lowest in the decade with only 640 children who have suffered from the same kind of influenza.
Though the state government has been trying to justify it as a natural phenomenon, in the last five days 223 children have been admitted to Purulia state general hospital and 164 have been admitted to Jalpaiguri district hospital where two children died.
On Wednesday 40 children only 40 children were admitted, and on Thursday the number of cases doubled with 40 more children admitted of which three died.
The chief minister has said that the children who died had some other problems. Even state Health Secretary N.S. Nigam said that the children were suffering from influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and no other elements of unknown virus were detected. “The expert committee has devised a treatment protocol that will be followed in treating these children,” he added.
“Higher level of diagnostic facilities for Respiratory viruses is being created at North Bengal Medical College and School of Tropical Medicine. The expert committee is developing new Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) and the paediatricians are being oriented to diagnose and treat this fever episode.
“The critical care unit for paediatric cases like NICU and PICU has already developed and is being utilised for treating more serious cases. Fortunately, the RS virus infection is generally self-limiting and cured by 3-5 days, and death rate is extremely low for such infection,” a senior official of the state health department said.
The state BJP, however, alleged that the outbreak was a result of the callousness of the state government. Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari who visited Coochbehar hospital on Thursday wrote to the Union Health Minister detailing out the condition of the children in the state.
“WB Administration seems to be occupied with Bhabanipur bye-elections, as it’s their priority. So I’d urge Hon’ble Union Health Minister @mansukhmandviya ji to immediately dispatch a central team of experts to WB, to assist & aid the WB Health Dept in order to save our children,” Adhikari wrote on his twitter.
Governor Jagdeep Dhakhar was also critical of the state government. Speaking to the media Dhakhar said, “I am keeping a close watch on the situation. There are lots of children who have been affected and so I would ask the state government to take a serious note of the situation and work together to save the children.”