Children’s deaths in Kolkata hospitals spark fears of adenovirus outbreak

Four children died on Wednesday, a day after five reported deaths in Kolkata hospitals, but the Stete Health Secretary said that many of these cases had had co-mordities as well.

Updated - March 01, 2023 08:31 pm IST

Published - March 01, 2023 08:18 pm IST - KOLKATA

A mother pacifies her child with Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI), at emergency department of the BC Roy Post Graduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences, in Kolkata, on March 1, 2023.

A mother pacifies her child with Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI), at emergency department of the BC Roy Post Graduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences, in Kolkata, on March 1, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Four children died due to respiratory infections at different hospitals in Kolkata within 24 hours on Wednesday, amidst fears of an adenovirus outbreak. Two deaths were reported at the Dr. B C Roy Post Graduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences while two deaths were reported at the Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital (MCH). This comes a day after the deaths of five children were reported across hospitals in Kolkata.

As the number of children with respiratory distress is rising in the hospitals across West Bengal’s capital and adjoining districts, the State’s Health Secretary Narayan Swarup Nigam visited hospitals in the city and announced that the number paediatric beds would be augmented. However, he added that most of the children who died had been suffering from “co-morbidities”.

“Several of these cases had co-morbidities. These are children who are born underweight or had heart related issues,” Mr. Nigam said. The Health Secretary said that he had held discussions with hospital authorities and doctors, who were confident about the treatment and infrastructure available.  The official also added that district hospitals would have to speak to the superintendent of the medical college and hospitals for referral of patients.

A father whose child died at the B C Roy Hospital alleged that three children were put on a single bed at the hospital and added that the authorities had misbehaved with him. On Tuesday, the West Bengal Health Department issued an advisory in view of the upsurge of acute respiratory infection cases among children.

Struggling hospitals

“All paediatric acute respiratory infection (ARI) clinics will operate at the medical college and hospitals (MCHs), district hospitals and sub-divisional hospitals, among others, round the clock… No paediatric ARI cases shall be referred without the knowledge of the concerned MSVP/Superintendent of the hospital,” the advisory said.

There are reports of the deaths of children due to respiratory distress in the districts, where hospitals are also struggling with influx of patients.  The advisory added that five paediatric hubs —  B C Roy Post Graduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences, Calcutta National MCH , North Bengal MCH, Bankura Sammilani MCH and Malda MCH, which were prepared to deal with such situations during the pandemic — would supervise the multiple secondary hospitals.

The child deaths have given a handle to the Opposition to target the Trinamool Congress government. State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Sukanta Majumdar said that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee should invest more in the State’s health infrastructure instead of panting buildings blue and white.  State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that the State government was hiding the data on the deaths of children due to viral infections.  

Adenoviruses can cause a wide range of illnesses including common cold or flu-like symptoms. People with weakened immune systems, particularly children, are at higher risk.

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