The Karnataka government's health department has put its healthcare infrastructure across the state on alert mode following reports of a surge in respiratory illnesses among children in China.
As health department officials express concern over the high number of fever and respiratory cases among children, one of the 10 samples sent to the School of Tropical Medicine (STM) in Kolkata for the examination has tested positive for Influenza-B, while seven of them tested positive for the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which, doctors say, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, coldlike symptoms.
According to the director of health services, Dr Ajoy Chakraborty, the 10 samples were taken from children undergoing treatment for fever, cough and cold and respiratory distress at the Siliguri District Hospital. As the number of children being taken to hospitals across north Bengal saw a rise in the past few days, health department officials have expressed concern over the situation and the high rate of admission of children to different hospitals.
It is, meanwhile, learnt that high-level diagnostic facilities for testing respiratory virus are being set up at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) in Siliguri and the School of Tropical Medicine (STM) in Kolkata.
According to Dr Chakraborty, steps are being taken to set up such facilities. He said paediatricians were being given orientation, and a new protocol was being developed by experts for diagnosis and management of the fever that has struck children presently.
“The critical care unit for pediatric cases like neonatal intensive care units, and paediatrics intensive care units, have already been developed and are being utilised for treating more serious cases. The RS virus infection is generally self-limiting and cured by three-four days, and the death rate is extremely low for such infection,” he said.
“Our experts’ team of North Bengal Medical College and Hospital has visited the Jalpaiguri district hospital and examined cases there. The laboratory diagnosis have confirmed different types of fever, which is normally found during this time of the season, including influenza and RS virus, a few other like dengue and respiratory illness,”‘ Dr Chakraborty said.
According to him, no specific outbreak had been found so far as per a detailed investigation conducted by the state experts’ committee. Among the affected children, only a 17-day-old baby had tested positive for Covid19 during admission earlier.
“However, we are keeping a close observation on the situation and the expert team from the state headquarters will visit north Bengal districts tomorrow to further review the situation,” Dr Chakraborty said.
Senior health department officials said that though it had been suspected that the spurt was due to viral infection, it was important to ascertain the exact cause through tests. “A total of 10 samples had been sent to the STM for examination,” said Darjeeling district chief medical officer of health Dr Pralay Acharya.
“Along with adults, some children have also been infected by dengue in the rural areas, while the number in both the categories is around eight. The cases were reported in the last one week,” sources said.
Dr Acharya advised mothers or caregivers of the children to wash their hands while taking care of them. Darjeeling MP seeks Centre’s intervention Meanwhile, Darjeeling MP Raju Bista has written to union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya about the “outbreak of viral fever and respiratory problems in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha region.”
“Many people from the region have reached out to me, concerned about the worsening situation and seeking help to fight the outbreak. In the wake of the Corona pandemic, they are worried if this unusual outbreak of diseases could be an indication of another disease,” Mr Bista says in the letter.
“I shall be thankful if you could immediately intervene and send a medical team to ascertain the cause of the outbreak and take necessary action to fight the disease,” the MP adds.