Kolkata: Deaths of over 100 children in the north and south Bengal districts in the last 45 days with acute respiratory infection and fever have created an uproar in the state, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continuing to maintain silence over these deaths.
Hospital wards in multiple districts of the state are flooded with children displaying fever and respiratory issues. In many cases, the symptoms are proving to be fatal. The situation was particularly bleak during the autumn festivities in the state, with multiple north Bengal hospitals reporting a shortage of doctors.
The number of deaths has now crossed the 100 mark in the south and north Bengal, with 12 children reported dead at the Malda Medical College and 65 children succumbing to fever at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital. The Jalpaiguri hospital has reported 12 deaths, and nine children have died with the unknown fever at Burdwan Medical College. At Raiganj Medical College and Hospital, three deaths have been reported, and over 30 children are presently admitted with acute respiratory symptoms.
Medical experts in the state are yet to develop a plausible explanation for these deaths. Initially, the experts at the pediatric department of North Bengal University had alluded that the deaths could have been caused by humid weather and a seasonal change phenomenon. Now, they have discarded that explanation and are attributing it to premature birth. However, child deaths at this scale due to premature birth have rarely happened in the state, making the latest explanation unfeasible.
The first reports of these crib deaths- the death of a child of less than one year of age- emerged from the Jalpaiguri district. The children admitted to the district hospital displayed fever and stomach issues, followed by acute respiratory problems. Soon after, the symptoms proved to be fatal in multiple cases.
Similar cases of fever and respiratory failures were soon reported from the hills. The cases were then reported from Kurseong, Siliguri, Coochbihar, Malda and north Dimapur. Even private clinic wards in north Bengal are fully packed with children displaying similar kinds of symptoms. District-level hospitals are also overflowing with patients referred from the rural health centres.
Recently, state health department officials had visited the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital and expressed satisfaction with the facilities there. However, within hours of their visit, the hospital wrongly diagnosed a child with an acute respiratory infection. The child later died while still in the hospital premises.
The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has condemned the lacklustre attitude of the administration over these deaths and urged the health minister to take immediate measures to control the situation. Koninika Ghosh, AIDWA state secretary, has called out the administration and highlighted the pathetic state of affairs, especially at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital.