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West Bengal: Dengue cases on the rise, residents and civic officials blame each other

Every second house in Kolkata’s Baguiati afflicted with vector-borne disease, residents claim

Written by Sweety Kumari | Kolkata |
December 6, 2021 4:19:43 am
A civic worker fumigates in an area in Kolkata. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

Residents of Sachindra Lal Sarani and Baguipara in North Kolkata’s Baguiati area keep their doors and windows shut and spend hours inside mosquito nets during the daytime. Such is the menace of mosquitoes in the area that locals have been forced to fix their mosquito nets on their windows.

Over the last one month, two people have died of dengue in the area, and every second house has at least one person afflicted with the vector-borne ailment. Residents blamed the prevailing situation on the failure of the civic authorities to trace the breeding hotspots.

Baguiati falls within the ambit of the Bidhanagar Municipal Corporation.

Sanjay Saha who lost his wife Shatabdi Saha to dengue on November 8, blamed the death on heavy rainfall and the carelessness of the civic body.

“We had a record rainfall this year. There is a vacant piece of land near my house, which has turned into a garbage dump. Dengue cases are common here every year. In 2019, my wife had dengue and she survived. This year, however, she caught the fever again and died after a few days at a hospital.” Sanjay, who has an 11-year-old son, told The Indian Express.

“A timely dengue prevention drive by the civic authorities in the area could have saved the lives lost to the disease…” he added.

Sudip Banerjee, who lives about half a kilometre away from Saha’s residence, was critical after contracting dengue and was admitted to a private hospital for almost five days. Back home now, Sudip spends most of his time at home inside his mosquito net. He is the third person in his family to have tested positive for dengue.

Sudip accused the civic authorities of failing to clean pockets of Baguiati where stagnant water had accumulated and turned into veritable breeding grounds for the mosquitoes.

Dengue cases have been reported from several districts, including the North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, apart from Kolkata. In the last one month, many areas under the Bidhananagar and Dum Dum municipalities have reported a surge in dengue cases.

Several areas in an around Lake Town, Bangur and Baguiati have turned dengue hotspots.

On Tuesday, the second dengue death was reported in the Baguati area. The victim was identified as 57-year-old Swapan Mistri.

Over the last few years, Kestopur, Prafulla Kanan, Raghunathpur, Tegharia and Kaikhali have seen dengue deaths.

When The Indian Express visited the area to check the extent to which the disease had spread, it found that at least one member in every second household was having dengue-like symptoms.

Pranay Kumar Ray, a member of the Board of Administrators of the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, said, “Dengue cases are being reported regularly. On average, four to five cases are being reported daily. Members of our Rapid Action Team for vector control have spread out to all the six boroughs of the corporation area to check for vector breeding sites. The exercise is carried out vigorously throughout the year. Out of every 10 houses that they visit, at least 7 have stagnant water inside the premises. We continue to organise awareness programmes to ensure people keep their premises clean and free from vector breeding.”

According to sources in the BMC, more than 300 cases of dengue have been reported from different wards. As has been the trend over the last few years, the cases tend to go up from September-end.

As per data provided by a senior health official at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, the city has reported 1,366 dengue cases this year, down from 3,682 cases last year. The cases were reported between January and November 14.

“In 2020, our entire focus was on Covid-19. Hence, we consider it as a blind year. Data shows that there has been a sharp decline in Covid cases from 2019 to 2021,” a senior KMC doctor said.

Civic officials said that they are carrying out mosquito larvicide spray in all the wards and are urging residents to ensure there is no stagnant water accumulated anywhere inside their homes.

Speaking at an event on November 8, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had acknowledged that there were dengue cases in the state but said they weren’t in big numbers.

While holding an administrative meeting in the North 24 Parganas, she had expressed hope that the number of malaria and dengue cases would recede once winter sets in. Health Secretary Swarup Nigam, who was present at the meeting, said, “There is a surge in dengue cases in some areas. We are conducting tests. The situation is under control at the moment.”

Doctors are of opinion that persistent and heavy rainfalls is one of the reasons for the spike in dengue cases. According to a section of medical practitioners, lack of sterilisation and cleanliness in some areas is driving dengue and malaria cases.

“Most of our civil administration staff are involved in Covid-19 duties and vaccination which is why we have been seeing a rise in dengue and malaria cases,” said a doctor of a government hospital, who asked not to be named.

Many claimed that that situation is far grimmer than what is being reported. Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Manas Gumta of Sagore Dutta Medical College and Hospital in Barrackpore said, “Actual numbers are higher than what is being reported. About 6-7 dengue patients are admitted to our hospital on a daily basis.”

However, the state administration that civic bodies conduct vector-control campaigns with the same intensity round the year.

“Our homogeneous approach has reaped dividends. The results reflect in the data. This year, the KMC has recorded 68 per cent fewer dengue cases compared to 2019. However, there’s been a spike in malaria cases. But with the winter setting in, malaria would cease to be a problem soon,” Subrata Roy Chowdhury, chief medical officer of health, KMC, said.

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