Children dead in Firozabad: How poor health services, official laxity burdened UP city

As many as 41 people, including 36 children, have died of dengue fever so far  

By Vivek Mishra
Published: Friday 03 September 2021

“Children always die in August.”

Siddharth Nath Singh, former health minister of Uttar Pradesh, had made the contentious statement soon after the formation of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh in 2017. More than 30 children had died in Gorakhpur that year due to shortage of oxygen.

Now, a ‘dengue-like viral fever’ outbreak in Firozabad has given several people sleepless nights: 41 people, including 36 children aged 1-16 years died as of September 2, 2021, AK Singh, Agra’s divisional additional director medical and health services confirmed.

Local public representatives, however, indicated the number could be higher.

“I lost my six-year-old nephew. Absence of proper health facilities killed him,” said Ranjit Sarita, who runs an auto rickshaw in Firozabad’s Sudama Nagar hamlet. The boy’s father was in jail when he died.

“The boy developed a mild fever on August 24. He took a medicine after consulting with a doctor. On August 26, he complained of unbearable stomach pain. I took him to Firozabad Medical College but was informed there was no bed,” said Ranjit.

They admitted the boy to Firozabad City Hospital (a private hospital) on August 27, where they were charged Rs 30,000 for a day.

“They later asked us to shift him somewhere else. He died August 28,” said Ranjit. He added several children died in his locality — all of them due to dengue.

Local independent journalist Jigyasu Tiwari informed Down to Earth that adults, too, were affected by the disease.

On August 25, in Nagla Aman village of Narkhi block, eight kilometres from Firozabad district headquarters, Harishankar’s mother Mohandevi suffered from high fever. She went to a community health center nearby, but there was no doctor. She was taken to Firozabad Trauma Centre August 26 as her condition deteriorated. She died the next day.

Shortage of beds in government hospitals has compelled people to approach private ones.

Saurabh Sharma, a local journalist, claimed the community health centre in the district was shut. On August 25, Sharma claimed, quacks had turned the homes of sick people into medical centres.

Glucose bottles were offered and cots arranged in queues, he said. On August 30, the district magistrate suspended the in-charge of the community health center, the journalist said.

Later, on September 1, the chief medical officer of the district was also transferred. Senior officials admitted that negligence on the part of the health department.

“The community health center was unlocked only when Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited the place. Now, a 30-bed hospital has been built there,” Sharma said.

A team of 15 doctors from the district has been deployed at the centre, according to sources.

A press release issued by the Uttar Pradesh government September 1 stated that an 11-member team of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) reached Firozabad and examined the samples and the primary report did not confirm COVID-19 infection.

Sangeeta Aneja, principal and dean, Autonomous State Medical College (ASMC), Firozabad, said there was “nothing mysterious” about the infection. Dengue, leptospirosis and scrub typhus were confirmed in the samples sent from Firozabad, Mathura and adjoining districts to ICMR, Lucknow for examination.

Leptospirosis can be caused by coming into contact with the infected urine or other fluids mixed with water or soil, except animal saliva. The infection can also occur when one comes in contact with infected bacteria in soil or water.

Most children living in poor areas of the district have weak immunity, said LP Gupta, doctor, Firozabad Medical College.

Meanwhile, scrub typhus has been confirmed in a sample from Mathura. It is also called bush typhus and is caused by the bacteria Orantia Tushtusugamushi. Chiggers (red bugs) are considered part of the spider family. They are small, and are not visible even though they are present in the grass.

Their bite causes severe itching. Symptoms may include fever, red spots on the skin, etc. It is found in abundance in the rural areas of South Asian countries. It is also highly contagious.

More than 200 children are admitted to Firozabad Medical College as of September 2, according to Amit Gupta, divisional commissioner, Agra. Most cases of dengue and other infections are being reported rural areas and parts of the city where waterlogging and filth problem persist. The city saw an outbreak of dengue four years ago as well, but it wasn’t on this big a scale, said Sangeeta Aneja, a doctor.

She added that as of September 1, 24 of the 25 samples sent to Lucknow from Firozabad “detected dengue”. Most cases were reported from Firozabad’s Shanti Nagar, Karbala, Satya Nagar Tapa, New Aadi, Nagla Aman, Anand Nagar Kheda, Himayunpur and Daragpur.

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