Lack of adequate details from Chennai Corporation causes panic following girl’s death

A sense of déjà vu prevailed as the news of the death of a six-year-old in Okkiyam Thoraipakkam on Wednesday came to be known. Once again, Chennai Corporation deliberated for several hours before releasing details amidst rumours of dengue.

T. Harini’s death sparked the same scare as had that of Samji Solomon Raj of Santhome on Sunday. According to the civic body’s evening release, Harini was suffering from fever for 10 days but had recovered. On Monday, she fell sick and her doctor sent her blood samples for testing. The samples were tested for malaria, typhoid and platelet count. The tests returned negative for malaria and typhoid and the platelet count was 1.83 lakh (the regular count in 1.5-2 lakh). But the girl died on Tuesday morning. Her family remains clueless about the cause of her death.

C. Rajmohan, the doctor who treated Harini, said he had prescribed the test for platelet count as the family couldn’t afford the Elisa confirmatory test for dengue. “If platelet count is low, it would alert us to complications. The child was given biryani in the evening as the fever had subsided which led to acidity. This morning, the family fed her kanji and she aspirated on it. This has resulted in death,” he said.

One of the reasons for the scare is lack of timely communication from the official agencies. Even as residents of the city are worried, information from the civic body about the number of people affected by dengue and other infectious diseases is scant.

As a result, people throng government hospitals at the slightest sign of fever. On Tuesday, the government advised the children’s hospital in Egmore to do the Elisa test instead of the rapid confirmatory test to avoid panic. The hospital has resorted to conducting the expensive Elisa tests based on screening and co-relating their clinical findings, doctors said. The clinical signs are based on observing and monitoring the patient for 3-4 days.

Symptoms such as high fever and cold peripheries after fever has subsided, lethargy and confusion, are some of the indications, paediatricians said.

“We tell the parents to check for warning signs like lethargy or tiredness even after fever has subsided,” said a senior paediatrician attached to the hospital.

Unlike a bacterial infection, a viral infection is difficult to confirm, doctors say. “For bacterial infections, there are a number of tests. Viral infections are self-limiting and it is more a chance that the infection is correctly identified,” a senior paediatrician said. Private diagnostic laboratories say there has been an increase in the number of tests conducted in the past few weeks.

In fact, private practitioners admit that they consider sending their patients for blood tests even on the first day of fever fearing backlash.

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