Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fever scare in Kerala

People are dying in Kerala due to fever. Unimaginable, but true. Over 250 people have died in the last 3 months. Everyday on an average of 5 to 10 people are dying due to fever. Now, it is not just fever; the patients are reporting rashes and wounds as well, according to Malayala Manorama.

It is believed that this is a disease called chikungunya, caused by a virus spread by mosquitoes. This is not the first time Kerala is in the grip of fever. In the last three years it was rat fever and Japanese Encephalitis.

I don't think any state has ever called in the Army's medical personnel to help fight fever. Reactions like "this is just a media creation" don't help. The threat is real. During my recent Kerala visit, I found six people whom I know down with chikungunya. Two of my relatives in Bangalore have now decided to postpone their visit to Kerala because of the epidemic.

This is worrying because Kerala is known for its clean environment and high health standards. Public health indices are commendable. People are highly educated and well-informed. Even the remote villages have public health centres. People have good access to doctors and medicines. Basic infrastracture in smaller towns and villages is much better than in any state in the country.

People say the fever started off in areas where there are thick rubber plantations. The workers who scrape the trees as part of the process to obtain 'rubber milk' do not dispose the water used or leave them stagnant in nearby areas. I am told it's an ideal place for mosquitoes to breed. And when rain comes, there are puddles of water all around for the mosquitoes to multiply in infinite proportions and thereby for the virus the spread.

This is by no means a scientifically validated cause for the epidemic. But such instances are being pointed out to drive home the point that people, inspite of the perceived high levels of awareness, bother little to ensure cleanliness of the environment.

Many are cynical. Instead of approaching this issue scientifically some say it is a wholly exaggerated scenario; a few others say it is part of a terror plot. Instead of taking preventive measures some are busy recalling how they saw mysterious planes flying low, which they say were dropping "strange powders".

Expecting others, including the government, to clean the environment is one thing. But primarily the citizens have to be much more cautious and take steps to keep the surroundings clean. Indeed the state has to undertake an extensive cleansing drive. Also, the scientific community has to take this up and find a way out to get around the problem.

1 comment:

  1. Rubber plantations do have something to do with mosquitoes. We have a few "rubber estates" in our village. As soon as you step into it you will be swamped by these blood sucking insects. I have noticed that the buggers often lay in wait under the shelter of thick layers of dried leaves on the ground. If you start removing the layers of leaves, you will see mosquitoes flying at you from the moist leaves and moist ground below.

    These rubber estates are mini forests, and like any forest they provide the perfect environment for insects and mosquitoes to thrive, and the problem is that they are located too close to where humans live.