R. Krishna Kumar
55 cases reported in the last seven days, say Health Department officials
Poor residents finding it even more difficult to make ends meetNo official has visited the village yet, say residents
MYSORE: An outbreak of a disease with chikungunya-like symptoms has affected a large number of residents in the village of Pushpagiri near Mysore over the last few weeks. While residents say that scores of families have been infected, district Health Department officials restrict the number of reported cases to 55 in the last seven days.
Residents are reporting symptoms of high fever accompanied by severe chills, acute body ache and joint pains.
These are usually followed by swelling of the joints and limbs. Many say that they have experienced blackouts.
The Hindu visited Pushpagiri (which has a population of 2,500) and met with several of its residents. According to some, about 150 blood samples have been collected from the sick and sent to Bangalore for analysis.
For Sara Joseph, whose husband is a security guard in the Defence Food Research Laboratory, times have been difficult as six members of her family, including her three children, are undergoing treatment.
"My two sons have gone to school although they are still under treatment, and my daughter could not write her B.Com examination because of a severe joint pain in the fingers. My husband is the sole breadwinner, and the medical expenditure is eating away at our meagre savings," she said.
An unusual silence pervades this semi-urban settlement. Very few people can be seen moving about as there is more than one patient in most homes.
Mary (65) says she too has symptoms of swelling, joint pains and severe chills, accompanied by fever. A blood test conducted at a local diagnostic centre could not pinpoint the cause of infection.
Located adjacent to Belavatta near the Outer Ring Road and the Reserve Bank of India's currency note printing unit, Pusphagiri is a semi-urban settlement hardly 15 minutes drive from Mysore.
Pushpagiri's residents are mostly poor, and the visitation of this illness has made it even more difficult for these families to make ends meet. Monthly medical bills can go up to Rs. 500. In many families, three or four members have been affected.
This imposes an even greater burden on their working members.
According to some of the residents, no official has visited the village, which is in the Chamundeshwari Legislative Assembly segment. Neither have its elected representatives. The residents have been left to fend for themselves.In the absence of a clear diagnosis, most people are being given a combination of various drugs, including Ofloxacin and Ceclofenac, while a few have been given only Paracetamol. In case of severe pain, patients have been injected with painkillers that give relief for a day or two after which the symptoms reappear. Residents of Pushpagiri and the adjoining Belavatta believe that at least 1,200 people have been afflicted by this disease, and it is the first time in the last 25 years since the locality came into existence that they have experienced anything like this.
The district administration claims to have launched a surveillance drive in Pushpagiri to ascertain the cause of illness that is affecting families. Taluk Health Officer K.H. Prasad told The Hindu that the administration received complaints about the outbreak of the unspecified disease last week and it had collected blood samples of the patients.
"In all, 55 people in Pushpagiri have displayed the symptoms. We have sent the blood samples to the National Institute of Virology, Bangalore, and the results are awaited," he said.
The administration does not rule out the possibility of chikungunya.
Deputy Commissioner S. Selvakumar said he would seek a report from the District Health Officer, and added, "We are equipped to tackle any situation and are well-stocked with medicines."