The dreadful saga of death continues in Firozabad as more children succumb to mystery fever and dengue outbreak which is not limited to the nagar nigam alone. Patients are coming to the district hospital from villages too. Complaints of lack of proper treatment pouring in.
Sofipur (Firozabad), Uttar Pradesh
A hearse drove inside the premises of the district hospital at Firozabad on Saturday morning and waited at the back entrance. “Hai mera raja beta (O my beloved son),” wailed the mother of Golu inconsolably, as her husband, on shaky legs, walked out of the hospital carrying their dead son in his arms; the young body was not even covered in a shroud. Within minutes, the vehicle drove away bearing the grief-stricken mother, father and their dead Golu.
Mystery fever, which some claim is dengue, continues to claim young lives in Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh. Nine-year-old Golu was its latest victim. The district has become the epicentre of the outbreak with at least 51 dead, mostly young kids, till September 4.
The fever outbreak is not limited to the nagar nigam (town area) alone. Patients are coming to the district hospital from villages too. Golu’s parents also live in Sofipur village in the district. “Plate gir raha hai [platelet count is falling],” is a common refrain of the parents whose children are sick. A normal platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microlitre of blood.
Grief and shock are slowly making way for anger in Firozabad as the number of children dying of fever is rising in the district. In Golu’s Sofipur village, when the hearse drove in with his body, the mood was of shock, utter helplessness and anger.
“I had five kids, now only four are left… At the hospital, my child was not looked after properly,” Buri Singh, father of Golu, told Gaon Connection.
“The child had a fever and was taken to the hospital. But he died there,” said Kamlesh, a neighbour of Buri Singh.
Sofipur, a small village, unsanitary, with no basic facilities and no proper medical help, is located barely seven kilometres from the district hospital Firozabad. Golu isn’t the first victim of the mystery fever in this village.
“There are no medicines easily available, there is water problem, the drains are open and filthy and we have no roads to speak of, and there has been no spraying or fogging,” Kamlesh complained to Gaon Connection. According to her, three children in her mohalla have died in the past few days due to ‘fever’.
Pappu, another resident of Sofipur, seconded Kamlesh and said that their village had no proper health services and several more children had died in the village. “Majority of the village residents are poor labourers and daily wagers working in the bangle industry,” said Pappu.
“No one wants to listen to the poor at the hospital. Only those with money are getting attention,” 80-year-old Jait Ram from Sofipur, told Gaon Connection. “I have not seen any authorities visiting and there has been no spraying or fogging in the village,” he added angrily.
“Five or six children have already died in the village. There are mosquitoes everywhere and sheer negligence is responsible for their deaths,” Maharaj, another resident of Sofipur said. “People here are poor and cannot afford private treatment and the government hospital will not even hear them out,” he said.
According to Maharaj, no fogging or spraying has been done anywhere in the gullies of the village even though children have been dying. “Only the mandir and the area around the pradhan’s (village head) house have been sprayed,” he said.
The mood outside the district hospital in Firozabad is restive as hundreds of people from far and near are waiting to either visit or admit near and dear ones, and hoping to catch the attention of some doctor.
“Go to the top floor of the hospital and see for yourself. There are children lying two to three on cots and there is not a doctor to be seen,” Pradeep Kumar from Marsena village, 15 kms away from Firozabad, told Gaon Connection. Kumar’s 13-year-old cousin Nitin, was admitted at the hospital. “Not even medicines are being administered and no one wants to even listen to us,” he said.
No one seems to know if it is dengue or some other fever. Symptoms have ranged from headache and acute stomach ache to vomiting and fever. “I have brought my daughter who has been complaining of a headache, and has a fever. When we got her tested they said she had viral fever,” Anil, seven-year-old Ananya’s father, who was rushing to another part of the hospital compound, half a kilometre away, to register the details of his daughter. “Without a parcha they will not see my daughter,” he said.
Anxious relatives stood around in the hospital premises. Some awaited reports that were delayed. “They said the test reports would be out in six hours. I waited for fourteen hours,” Ajay Kumar, father of the admitted 14-year-old Vishesh, told Gaon Connection. According to him Vishesh was admitted three days ago, and his platelets continued to drop.
Phoolwati from Anand Nagar village in Firozabad was agitated. “My grandson was admitted with fever and headache three days ago and the hospital authorities are saying they will discharge him, even though he is still sick,” she said. She said she refused to take the child home. “Just eight days ago my granddaughter, Pooja, who lived in Sudama Nagar died of a stomach ache and fever,” she added. “I fear the same thing will happen if my grandson is sent off from here,” she said.
Since the last week of August, Firozabad, in western Uttar Pradesh has been in a grip of a mystery fever. The first case of the mystery fever was reported in the district on August 18. Till September 4, at least 51 people, most of them children, had died in the district. Apart from Golu, another two-year-old died at the hospital on September 4.
According to official reports, nine blocks and one nagar nigam in Firozabad were affected by this fever. Reports of young children falling sick in neighbouring districts of Agra, Mathura and Etah are also coming in.
On September 4, as the death toll mounted, senior officials visited Firozabad in order to survey, monitor and take action to contain the spread of the fever outbreak.
Meanwhile Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has announced that between September 5 and 12, the health department, urban and rural development departments, the panchayats and the women and child welfare department will work together to combat the outbreak.
Adityanath said every family in the affected neighbourhoods would be screened, the surrounding areas would be fogged and sprayed with medicine and the drinking water situation in the areas would be assessed and addressed accordingly. These measures would control the spread of diseases such as dengue, encephalitis, cholera, chikungunya, diarrhea, etc, the chief minister said.
On September 2, the Union health ministry sent a team from the National Centre for Disease Control to Firozabad and the state government stepped up surveillance for dengue and sent medical teams to aid health workers in Firozabad. The ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) is also studying the outbreak in Firozabad.
On September 4, in an address to the press, nodal officer of Firozabad, Sudhir Bobde said that measures were being taken on a war footing to deal with the outbreak. “We are conducting a survey and everything is being done to contain the outbreak,” he said.
But that offers little solace to Buri Singh and the other parents in Firozabad who have lost their young children.
Written and edited by Pankaja Srinivasan.