The death of two neighbourhood women, in a span of 12 hours, has spread panic in Vellaraiamman Koil village near Wallajahbad, Kancheepuram district.
Pottiammal (45) died around 5 p.m. on Friday evening and around 5 a.m. on Saturday morning, her neighbour Gowri (50) died. The women were down with fever the past week, a villager said.
For nearly a fortnight now, the village of about 250 houses has been in the throes of disease, with little respite. Most of the villagers work as agricultural labourers, lorry drivers or construction workers. Many of them have been complaining of fever, achy joints and heaviness in the head, over the past few days.
Lorry driver D. Xavier said, “I was sick for a week and then, my family members began taking ill. Some of us have been sick for more than ten days now. Many villagers have gone to private hospitals for treatment as the services at the Wallajabad government hospital are not good enough,” he said.
S. Madhan, a councillor from the village, alleged that patients who went to the hospital were given just tablets and not administered vaccines. “People go to the government hospital first and when they do not get any better, they have no option but go to private practitioners,” he said.
“I was sick for sometime and I got treated at a private clinic. I can afford the treatment but most villages here are casual labourers. One woman died when she was being taken to a private hospital,” he said.
A visit to the hospital revealed ailing villagers were not the only visitors there. Animals, including pigs, roamed about the premises. “Government officials exhort us to go to government hospitals but we are not satisfied with the treatment there. Every house here has at least two to three sick people,” Sundararaj, a resident, said.
Health officials were huddled in a meeting all day. Several attempts to reach the officials yielded no response. On Saturday, bleaching powder was sprayed near the hospital premises and a medical camp was held.
Meanwhile, 12 persons were admitted to hospitals in the western suburbs of Ambattur and Avadi. All of them showed mild symptoms of dengue, said the councillors of local bodies.
According to residents in these areas, garbage piles and open drains turn into breeding grounds for mosquitoes. A resident of Ambattur said the government had proposed an underground drainage scheme in 2001 but no work had been taken up on that front yet.
Director of public health R.T. Porkai Pandian said there were some cases of dengue in Wallajabad and Vellore but he was unable to confirm the cases reported in Ambattur and Avadi.