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As Bengal continues to battle dengue, another enemy emerges: scrub typhus

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 30 October 2017, 21:49 IST
(Satish Bate/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

Even as West Bengal is combatting an outbreak of dengue, the state also has another bacterial disease on its plate to battle: scrub typhus. Over 30 people in Bankura have been affected by scrub typhus in the past month.

A type of mite-borne infectious disease, it has symptoms which are similar to chikungunya and dengue - fever, headache and muscle pain - which makes it all the harder for doctors to diagnose.

This mite-borne disease is transmitted to humans from the bite of an infected chigger (pest or bug) and can lead to death if untreated.

Generally the bugs that are responsible for transmitting the disease in humans are found in grassy fields, bushes, gardens, parks or lakes and streams. According to experts, these bugs are so small (0.3 millimeters) that they are actually invisible.

These baby chiggers, part of the Trombiculidae family, are red, orange, yellow or straw coloured. Their bites leave a black mark on patients.

"In the past two months, many patients suffering from stub typhus have been admitted to the hospital as they are suffering from this disease. If proper intervention is not taken at an early stage, it may lead to death. We have conducted blood tests on around 70 suspected scrub typhus cases," says Dr Partha Pratim Pradhan, the medical superintendent of Bankura Sammilani Medical College.

Senior doctors at SSKM Hospital in Kolkata say that a blood test is the first thing to be administered if patients are suffering from high fever coupled with muscle pain for over two days. After that, antibiotics need to be prescribed as in an acute case, the patient may be afflicted by respiratory issues. If untreated, scrub typhus can lead to multi-organ failure.

Dr Manotosh Guin a senior doctor of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital(CMCH) said, “The commonest symptom of the scrub typhoid is fever with headache. On Monday we admitted two patients from Deganga in North 24 Parganas suffering from similar symptoms."

Taking action

With this double threat of dengue and scrub typhus, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held a press conference at Nabanna in Kolkata on Monday to warn municipalities that the state will take action against them of they do not undertake adequate measures to kill mosquitoes.

"We have received 21,000 complaints from various people regarding mismanagement in various municipalities leading to dengue , but we have to check all the complaints. We have already taken action against two private pathological laboratories for providing false dengue reports. We have also received reports that 27 deaths occurred in private hospitals and we are yet to verify whether the cause of the death was malaria, swine flu or dengue," she said.

According to Banerjee, Opposition parties are unnecessarily playing politics when to comes to dengue.

To prove her point, she gave figures from across India who have died because of various vector-borne diseases. In Maharashtra, the number of deaths stands at 695, 230 in Rajasthan, 165 in Uttar Pradesh and 141 in Madhya Pradesh.

“BJP-ruled states should first take measures to control disease in their own state , rather than unnecessary trying to create political controversy,” she said.

According to BJP, the All India Trinamool Congress has failed to control the outbreak of dengue in West Bengal.

"Dengue deaths are increasing in the state and CM Mamata Banerjee says that only 13 deaths have occurred in the state. We want the state government to immediately intervene to control the situation," state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.

First published: 30 October 2017, 21:49 IST