Special Correspondent

Dr. Ramadoss says Chikungunya is a non-fatal disease

NEW DELHI: Rajya Sabha members on Wednesday questioned the Government's claim of nil Chikungunya deaths in the country.Over 11 lakh cases of the viral disease had been reported from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Kerala.

Members, cutting across party lines, sought clarification from the Government on a calling attention motion. They expressed concern over the rapid spread of the "debilitating" disease in several parts of the country.

Members from Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and some other States reported deaths in contrast to Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss' claims. Dr. Ramadoss said Chikungunya was a non-fatal disease. The deaths being reported by members "must have been due to some complications due to wrong diagnosis or false mode of treatment."

He said as of now there was no national-level policy on the disease that had recurred in the country after 32 years. There was no vaccine available for the disease, which resembles dengue fever. The Indian Council of Medical Research was involved in research. The World Health Organisation had initiated steps for global research. The Government had included it under its World Bank-funded Integrated Diseases Surveillance Programme.

The Minister said 129 districts were affected in seven States. The number of suspected cases was 11,02724 and of 10,809 samples tested, 1,015 were confirmed cases of Chikungunya.

The Government had suggested straining stored water to remove mosquito larvae, use of `temephos' in a dose of one part per million in water used by cattle for drinking and spray of pyrethrum extract (0.1 per cent) indoors to kill the mosquito. Use of biological control methods, such as introduction of larva eating fish like `gambusia' and `guppy' in water tanks and other water sources, had been recommended.

Dr. Ramadoss said the Ministry had issued advisories to States. Central teams had visited the affected districts.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who sat through the discussion, suddenly asked, "But why (is it called) chicken?''

"It is Chickun-gunya, drawn from Tanzania. It has nothing to do with bird flu," Dr. Ramadoss said.