Updated: September 3, 2021 8:03:46 am
At least 40 people, most of them children, have lost their lives in Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh to a mysterious fever, which officials suspect as dengue. More than 200 children are undergoing treatment at the pediatric section of the children’s hospital in the area. An ICMR team that tested samples from the hospital has ruled out Covid. Firozabad’s district magistrate, Chandra Vijay Singh, who carried out an inspection of the hospital, told this newspaper that people had complained about “cleanliness problems in some areas”. He also gave information about “an intensive spraying” drive in the affected areas and said “many teams are monitoring the situation”. But the truth is that it required a visit by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath to the outbreak-hit areas for the administration to spring into action, nearly a week after the disease assumed grave proportions.
The best way to prevent dengue is to prevent bites by mosquitoes infected by the pathogen. In other words, sanitation and preventing water logging hold the key to disease control and elimination — an imperative underlined by the WHO and national health agencies. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s strategy for prevention and control of dengue talks of the importance of local bodies in framing area-specific responses to tackle the disease. By all accounts, the Firozabad administration has fallen short in this respect. Like in several other parts of the country, neglect in basic sewerage and waste disposal facilities affects the quality of people’s lives in the area’s working-class colonies, home to more than 60 per cent of its population. The locality at the epicenter of the current outbreak has a sewer drain running perpendicular to its entry point, it has several open drains and a large garbage damage dump about 100 metres inside the locality that testifies to the negligible impact of the Centre’s flagship project, Clean Indian Mission, on Firozabad. While the jury is still out on whether the epidemic is dengue, doctors in the area seem to be certain that lack of cleanliness is the primary reason for the disease stalking the area.
Meanwhile, another mysterious disease has been reported from Mathura — like Firozabad, a part of the Agra division. Officials here talk of “some deaths” caused by scrub typhus — a vector-borne disease caused by bacteria and with proven links to poor hygiene and sanitation. Mathura and Firozabad are part of the UP government’s “smart city” plans. Clearly, the administration in these areas have a long way to go in being alert to peoples’ well-being.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on September 3, 2021 under the title ‘Filthy and unhealthy’.