Dengue outbreak in West Bengal: Mamata Banerjee says no need to panic as 40 die

Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday that her government will take action against civic bodies if they fail to check the spread of dengue and dismiss a municipality if its authorities are found sitting idle even after receiving funds to fight the mosquito-borne infection.

“I have asked the civic bodies to be alert. If I find the authority of any municipality not putting in enough effort, we shall take action…” the chief minister said during a press conference.

Some areas of North 24 Parganas such as Bongaon, Dumdum, Bidhannagar, Bhangar, and Deganga are under the grip of widespread fever spread by the bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. North 24 Parganas that borders Kolkata is the most densely populated district in the country.

Many in a few other districts such as Malda and Murshidabad are also suffering.

Banerjee, who is also the health minister, claimed that only 13 people have died in state-run hospitals in the West Bengal.

“In private hospitals and nursing homes, 27 have died allegedly of dengue. We are probing those figures,” she said.

Chief secretary Malay De said on October 24 that 34 people lost their lives in the state due to dengue that causes severe joint pain, nausea, abdominal cramps, fever lasting several days, and in some cases, bleeding from the gums, nose or ears, and rashes. It has no cure but most people recover with symptomatic treatment for fever and pain.

The chief minister also accused a section of the media of publishing wrong information supplied by some private healthcare units without verification. “We have already cancelled the license of three pathological labs for wrong reports,” she said.

Banerjee highlighted dengue death figures in other states to claim that the menace has claimed far fewer lives in her state.

“Gujarat is a smaller state than Bengal but as many as 435 people have lost their lives there. These are figures updated a few days ago,” she said.

“The figure is 695 for Maharastra, 230 for Rajasthan, 165 for UP, 141 for Madhya Pradesh, 80 for Assam, 83 for Odisha. Even Kerala that is a very small state compared to Bengal has witnessed 111 deaths,” she added.

This season Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are grappling with the mosquito-borne infection. Three states — Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu – account for more than half of India’s 87,018 confirmed dengue cases and 151 deaths, national data collated till October 15 shows.

Though the Centre lists West Bengal as a distant fourth with 5,389 cases and 13 deaths, a surge in new infections and deaths over the past two weeks has led to protests by Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party in Kolkata’s streets against Banerjee.

She slammed the opposition parties in West Bengal of indulging in “petty politicking” over the issue. “When I was in the opposition, we used to hold camps for awareness against malignant malaria,” said the chief minister.

The Congress and BJP have also alleged that the administration is misleading people on the extent of spread of dengue.

West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that his party will move Calcutta high court against the state government for suppressing the figures in the state.

The party will submit a memorandum to the governor on November 2 and organise an agitation in Kolkata on November 3.

“The state government is dictating doctors not to write dengue in prescriptions. Doctors are now being compelled to write prescription according to the diktat of the chief minister. I want to ask her whether she will take the responsibility if the doctors go to jail for this unethical work?” Chowdhury asked.

“Let the state government file an affidavit in the court and state that the reason of the widespread fevers is ‘unknown’. I am challenging the state government on this issue. I am going to file the PIL,” said Chowdhury.

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