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Monday, October 18, 2021

North Bengal: 130 kids down with respiratory illness; govt braces for outbreak

With doctors in government hospitals saying that they fear a massive outbreak in paediatric respiratory cases, an expert committee set up by the state government met in Kolkata to discuss treatment and testing protocols.

Written by Sweety Kumari | Kolkata |
September 16, 2021 5:38:30 am
The expert group set up by the government met at Swasthya Bhawan, the headquarters of the state health department here, on Wednesday to discuss the rising cases. (File)

At least 130 children in north Bengal have taken ill in the past few days from a disease that some experts suspect is being caused by Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). With doctors in government hospitals saying that they fear a massive outbreak in paediatric respiratory cases, an expert committee set up by the state government met in Kolkata to discuss treatment and testing protocols. There have been reports of similar cases in Kolkata as well.

Multiple reports said that a six-year-old child admitted to Jalpaiguri Sadar hospital with high fever died on Wednesday. The child’s samples have been sent to the School of Tropical Medicine (STM) in Kolkata, sources said. The affected children, most of them between one and six years old, are being admitted to hospitals with high fever, and cough and cold. Some of them also have diarrhoea. Initially, they were tested for Covid-19, malaria and dengue, but the reports came back negative. While RSV is being suspected, according to the expert committee there is a chance that these children may have been exposed to metapneumovirus or parainfluenza virus.

“The season for such respiratory disease outbreak is the end of October or the beginning of November. But this time, it is almost two months early. Hence, the health department is sensing something unusual and suspecting an outbreak,” a senior doctor told The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity.

To date, most cases have been reported from the districts of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar, and some portions of Dinajpur. “There are reports of an outbreak and it specifically applies to children younger than two years. Some children are not even responding to oxygen therapy and are requiring ventilation. Viral panel labs will be built at some key places such as the School of Tropical Medicine, NRS [Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College], and Calcutta Medical College. Till the time the infrastructure is not developed on these lines, the state will take help from NICED [National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases],” a senior paediatrician told The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity.

The expert group set up by the government met at Swasthya Bhawan, the headquarters of the state health department here, on Wednesday to discuss the rising cases. The panel includes, among others, Director of Health Services (DHS) Dr Ajoy Chakraborty, two paediatricians, three medicine specialists, and virologists from the School of Tropical Medicine.

“We discussed the diagnostic protocol, treatment protocol, the protocol for intensive care units, and oxygen therapy. Dr Bibhuti Saha reminded us that we should investigate and exclude malaria, dengue, Covid-19, scrub typhus etc because not all patients are similar and not all are viral or influenza. To increase the laboratory capacity, kits will be procured to identify different respiratory viruses and set up at STM and North Bengal Medical College. Ten samples were sent from Jalpaiguri for testing at STM, two Influenza B and two RS virus cases were identified, and another mixed. There was a virtual meeting with all the principals, CMOHs and superintendents, and the present fever cases and the treatment protocols were discussed and explained by the experts,” said Dr Chakraborty.

Dr Jaydeb Ray, the head of the paediatric department of the Institute Child Health (ICH) in Kolkata said, “It is peculiar that unlike Covid-19 when children come in contact with this infection they land up in hospitals or ICUs. Parents are advised to take all precautions with kids, such as avoiding crowded places, don’t bring children close to people with cough and cold. Wear a mask and wash hands frequently.”

Sources said more than 20 children had been admitted to ICH with fever but tested negative for Covid-19. More than 200 in the city’s BC Roy Post Graduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences, and six children in Calcutta Medical College have similar symptoms, according to officials.

“It is important to take precautions…Also, one should be alert and understand when to approach a hospital. If your child is having a high fever for three days, not eating food, not taking fluids, and is finding difficulty in staying awake or has developed respiratory discomfort, you must consult a doctor. Several cases turn critical because initially these are treated as normal cough and cold. However, there is no need to panic and in many cases, it is seasonal too. Most of such cases in our hospital have been diagnosed as influenza A and B,” said Dr Ray of ICH.

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