Lucknow: At a time when Covid-19 is steadily subsiding across Uttar Pradesh, an outbreak of mysterious Dengue-like fever has become the new scourge, claiming at least 47 lives between Friday and Monday evening in Uttar Pradesh's Firozabad district, stirring immense fear in the region and sparking public outrage against the local administration.
The death toll has climbed to more than 50 in fifteen days. On the other hand, in the adjoining district, Kasganj, there is panic in the health department due to the death of two people and more than 50 falling ill. Some of the districts in western Uttar Pradesh, including Mathura, Firozabad, Agra, and Mainpuri, have witnessed a spike in cases of 'viral fever' which has resulted in the state's chief minister Yogi Adityanath visiting Firozabad. He met the families of those who lost their children and family members, and assured them of help.
The chief minister also visited the 100-bed district hospital at Firozabad, where children showing symptoms of the disease are being treated. "The dedicated Covid-19 ward at the district hospital of Firozabad is reserved for patients suffering from this fever," he told reporters.
A resident of Azad Nagar, Sanjay Shankhwar, died on Saturday night. Earlier, on August 23, 13-year-old Pawan Shankhwar, brother of Sanjay died of Dengue-like fever.
Accusing the health department and local administration, a family member of a deceased said on the condition of anonymity, "We don't know whether it is an indication of the third wave of Covid-19 or Dengue, but we lost our loved ones due to sheer negligence of the district administration, and also poor health infrastructure of the health department. How long will it take the government to come out of its comfort zone and understand that people are dying?" He added that many lives could have been saved if the health department had been alert.
"Despite repeated requests to the district administration that waterlogging might cause Dengue or Malaria in the region, they did not pay heed to our woes and misery and now they are covering up; who will return our children and members who are gone now?" he questioned as he burst into tears.
Firozabad's district magistrate, Chandra Vijay Singh, denied that this was the third wave of the pandemic. "Due to heavy rains and waterlogging, Dengue and Malaria are causing high fever among children," he said, adding that health teams have tested the patients but they have all tested negative for Covid.
Meanwhile, many patients are being transferred to Agra and other cities as the rural areas are badly affected. Health department teams are going door to door and distributing medicine. However, they do not have any record of those who died in private hospitals and at home in rural areas with Dengue-like fever.
Dr Neeta Kulshrestha, chief medical officer (CMO) of Firozabad district, said, “The exact cause behind deaths is being investigated. However, the intensity of the fever is worrying. It is taking two weeks for the children to recover. Normal viral subsides in five days but this viral is taking 10 days to dissipate. Doctors are considering it mysterious because it is different from normal viral."
Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, attacked the ruling government for "poor health infrastructure", demanded better health facilities in the state.
She said in a tweet in Hindi: "In Firozabad, Mathura, Agra and other places in UP, children and adults have died due to fever, which is heart-wrenching. The UP government should step in immediately to control the disease and provide better health facilities."
ENCEPHALITIS ON RISE IN EASTERN UTTAR PRADESH
Encephalitis has been spreading at a fast pace in Purvanchal region especially in chief minister Yogi Adityanath's home turf, Gorakhpur and adjoining districts of Kushinagar, Deoria, Maharajganj after four years. Several children in Kushinagar died due to encephalitis in a few days. However, it is not being reported in the media. Today is the last day of August, but the official data of deaths due to encephalitis has not been released yet. When NewsClick approached locals in Gorakhpur and Kushinagar, they confirmed that children were being infected of encephalitis and admitted at BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur.
They also claimed that encephalitis vaccines are not available in any community health centres in rural areas. However, the state government has claimed all the medicines and vaccines are available in those areas and the government is monitoring the situation.
According to the data provided by the government, nearly 2,864 children were affected due to encephalitis in 2019. The graph declined in 2018, when the number of cases was reported to be 1,242, 931 in 2019, and in 2020 it was reported 912. The number further declined in 2021 and was reported to be 428. As per the data, only 17 children died this year.
However, local journalists and politicians slammed Yogi Adityanath for “hiding” the data.
Ravi Mishra, a journalist based in Gorakhpur told NewsClick, “After the BRD oxygen tragedy, patients are being admitted in the name of Acute Febrile Illness (AFI) and not Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) and Japanese Encephalitis (JE). Before 2018, not a single patient was admitted to die of this disease. Therefore, cases have decreased. Even samples sent to ICMR by BRD medical college did not receive any explanation. This is how data is being hidden by the government since they failed to tackle encephalitis in the region,” he said,
A doctor said encephalitis repeats after every five year in these regions and after 2017, it has once again spread.