Jiby Kattakayam

No conclusive figures as records of patients visiting private hospitals are not available

The worst is over, say health officials

‘Source-reduction activities are the only solution’

KOZHIKODE: As many as 2,48,956 persons sought treatment for fever cases at the primary health centres (PHC’s) in the district from June, 2009, to September 4, 2009, accounting for 75.38 per cent of the viral fever cases reported.

As many as 3,30,248 persons visited the PHC’s for out-patient (OP) treatment till September 4. With no records available on the number of patients who visited private hospitals, a conclusive figure on the fever outbreak in the district is impossible.

Exact count

An exact count of the number of chikungunya patients is also unavailable, as serum samples were not collected from all patients, and many were treated based on symptoms. Health officials are confident that the worst is over for the district, with less than 1,000 cases being reported in the last two weeks. Fifteen junior health inspectors have been appointed to monitor source-reduction activities in the Corporation areas like Panniyankara, Vellayil and West Hill which are reporting majority of the cases.

From January to August, 2008, the district reported 1,27,043 fever cases with 84,756 viral fever cases during the peak monsoon months of June, July and August. “We were aware of the warnings raised by public health experts of a possible viral fever outbreak and the department started its activities in right earnest in 2009,” says Public Health Officer K.T. Mohanan.

Parliament elections

However, Parliament elections and the delegation of health workers and department vehicles for election duty during April and May crippled officials’ ability to monitor the viral fever outbreak, just as chikunguniya cases began to be reported on a large scale from Maruthongara panchayat in late-April. To add to the department’s woes, several health staff like JHI’s were assigned to non-health duties like the EMS Housing Scheme by panchayat officials until a directive from the Health Minister stopped the practice.

The count of viral fever cases that was in the low 10,000’s through the months of January through April climbed by over 200 per cent to 23,533 cases in May.

The outbreak spread rapidly through Naripetta and Kunnummel to Perambra and Balussery, with June witnessing 62,901 cases. It hit its peak in July with 1,21,705 patients seeking treatment at PHC’s. The number dropped to 64,350 cases in August before showing trends of returning to normalcy with only a daily average of 600 cases being reported in the last one week.

Public participation

“Source-reduction activities are the only solution to contain vector-borne diseases. This requires massive public participation,” says Mr. Mohanan.

“Every drop of standing water becomes a possible source and we struggled to convince people of the dangers of water-logging and improper waste-disposal.”

The Health Department has now asked every PHCs to prepare an action plan by January 2010 to tackle communicable diseases, as soon as the first case is reported. A district-level action plan will also be initiated to co-ordinate and monitor the efforts at a higher level. A massive awareness campaign on source-reduction and sanitation measures is also being planned in the pre-monsoon months next year.

District officials meanwhile, are heaving a sigh of relief that the fever outbreak did not bring the whole district and economic activities to a standstill, like it did in Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha in 2007.