September 17, 2021 4:30:38 am
Amid reports of an increase in number of children admitted to hospitals with with flu-like symptoms in West Bengal, BJP MLA and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Suvendu Adhikari on Thursday wrote to the Union Health ministry, requesting a team of experts to assist the state health department.
On the other had, officials after their meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at state-run SSKM Hospital here said there was nothing to worry. Banerjee held a meeting with principals of five medical college hospitals.
State health secretary Narayan Swarup Nigam said there was no reason to worry as the administration was seized of the situation and was working out ways to deal with it. “There is nothing to worry about in these cases. The virus, Respiratory Syncytial, is found to have caused fever among children,” he said.
He said the health department will soon release a standard operating procedure for the treatment of children who have fallen ill after being infected with the virus.
In his letter, addressed to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, the Nandigram MLA claimed that as many as 750 children were suffering from an undetected fever across the state and six had died.
Nigam denied any death due to an ‘unknown fever’ in the state. According to a senior health official, members of an expert committee will soon visit Jalpaiguri and Siliguri sadar hospitals to take stock of the situation.
Accusing the Trinamool Congress government of prioritising the Bhabanipur by-election over public health, Adhikari tweeted, “WB Administration seems to be occupied with Bhabanipur by-election, 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.”
The BJP leader claimed that children in north Bengal have been mostly affected by this mystery illness. “More than 750 children belonging to the northern part of West Bengal have been suffering with high fever and undetected flu-like symptoms. They have been admitted in the paediatric units of various government hospitals across eight districts. Unfortunately, six infants have already died. About 200 sick children are admitted in Malda district only. This is a serious cause of concern amidst the impending 3rd wave of Covid, that may cause the most harm to children,” he wrote.
Adhikari said he feared that the state government may be unwilling to announce immediate measures to address the situation as it might reflect poorly on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also the minister, and hurt her prospects in the Bhabanipur bypoll. Banerjee has to win the by-election to stay on as CM.
“My apprehension is that they may be consciously reluctant to take any concrete measures as it might earn a bad name to the CM who is also the Health Minister and might affect her prospects in the by-election. Hence, I kindly request you to dispatch a central team of experts immediately to West Bengal to assist and aid the WB health Department in order to save our children,” the letter further read.
Responding to Adhikari’s letter to the Union health ministry, state Transport Minister Firhad Hakim said since Adhikari was resorting to such ploys to please Central BJP leaders.
Meanwhile, the state health department is creating better diagnostic facilities for respiratory viruses at the North Bengal Medical College and School of Tropical Medicine. Health officials claimed that an expert team from North Bengal Medical College had already visited Jalpaiguri. “The laboratory diagnosis confirmed different types of fever which are normal for this season, including Influenza and RS virus, while a few others have symptoms of dengue and other respiratory illnesses. On a detailed enquiry, the expert committee determined that there has been no specific outbreak so far. All patients were tested for Covid-19 during admission, and, so far, only one (a 17-day old baby) has tested positive for the virus,” a health official said.
The health department, however, said that the number of cases is not abnormally high in comparison to previous years. According to officials, of the total 1,195 patients admitted to the Jalpaiguri District Hospital between September 1 to September 15, two have died. One of them was a six-year-old girl who was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease and pneumonia. She died on September 14. The day after, on September 15, a baby with a very low birth weight died and the cause was determined to be birth asphyxia. The admission of 1,195 patients in the first half of this month is fewer than an average of about 2,000 in September over the last few years.
“In 2017, there were 2279 such cases. The figure dropped marginally in 2018 to 2049 cases. In 2020, 640 cases were reported, down from 2084 in 2019,” Dr Ajay Chakraborty, the state’s director of health and service, said.
According to officials, the overall hospital admission rate was on the lower side last year owing to the prevailing Covid situation. Six paediatric deaths were reported in September 2017, 4 in 2018 and none in the month of September over the last two years. “The state is keeping a close watch on the situation and an expert team will visit North Bengal districts on Friday for a further review,” a senior official said.
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