Mystery fever stalks Surat

Three persons have died in the past three days; help sought from National Institute of Virology to identify disease

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Saturday 12 October 2013

The reason for the mysterious fever in the old city area of Surat is waiting to be solved. The municipal corporation of the city has sent blood samples from affected people to Pune's National Institute of Virology to identify the disease.

Three people, including a 13-year-old boy, have died in the past three days of a mysterious fever in Nanpura Kadar Shah Naal area in Surat city, said Hemant Desai, chief medical officer of Surat Municipal Corporation.

Two of the patients, Shoaib Ismail Ibrahim (22) and Wahid Pathan (17), were brought to the local municipal hospital where they died within 24 hours. Their X-Ray and clinical examination showed their lungs had filled with fluid and they died of pulmonary disorder. The third patient Muhammd Uvesh Shaikh (13) died on way to hospital. The reason for his death has not been ascertained, but his symptoms were the same as that of the other two. Hospitals received 28 more patients from the area with complaints of mild to high fever with shivering, and they have tested negative for Dengue and Malaria.

"The serum and blood samples of the 28 new patients have been sent to Pune. These people tested negative for dengue and malaria. Samples of those who died could not be collected, hence we could not send them," said Desai.

Unusual symptoms

Nanpura Kadar Shah Nal area is located in the old part of the city, comprising of about 1,000 families of lower income group. Deaths from diseases, with fever as primary symptom, are not uncommon in post-monsoon period in this part of town. However, people of Nanpura Kadar Shah Naal raised alarm when they heard that deaths were happening in their locality because of fever of unidentified origin. All the three people who died did not respond to paracetamol and other methods used to bring fever down. They died before tests of dengue and malaria were conducted on them.

Every year, in the post monsoon period, people with fever are being screened for malaria and dengue. In southern Gujarat, which includes Surat, patients are additionally screened for leptospirosis. Tests for leptospirosis still have to be done among the new cases whose samples have been sent to Pune. But according to doctors, symptoms of these cases do not match that of leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease transmitted from animals to humans. This year, 272 persons in the four districts of southern Gujarat—Surat, Navasari, Dangs and Valsad—tested positive for leptospirosis. Thirty people died of it.

Environmental conditions are one of the reasons for spread of diseases in the old city area. “The old part of Surat is low-lying and gets flooded easily during rains. The structure of the houses is also different from that of the rest of the city. Some parts are being restructured. This is a major health challenge for Surat,” said Vikas Desai, who formerly worked with the Gujarat government’s health department and is now technical director of Urban Health and Climate Change Resilience Centre.


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