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Pawan Dixit, Hindustan Times

Kanpur Dehat, August 25, 2008

First Published: 00:17 IST(25/8/2008)

Last Updated: 00:19 IST(25/8/2008)

Rural Kanpur is fighting its most frightening scourge — a mystery disease that has left a long line of bodies in its trail and doesn’t seem anywhere finished.

What started from one village two weeks ago has now spread to 350 and has so far claimed 160 lives. Thousands more are bed-ridden. On an average, 15 to 20 people have been dying every day; Saturday saw the highest toll in a day: 24.

The district’s health department is somewhat confused about the nature of the disease that has struck. At the beginning, the diagnosis was viral fever. Then doctors concluded that it was falciparum malaria. But after two weeks, they have ruled out both but still don’t have an exact answer.

“We really don’t know what exactly it is; we are depending on the finding of a team of specialists from New Delhi,” said Dr RC Agarwal, the district’s new chief medical officer.

Specialists from the Infectious Disease and Surveillance Programme, New Delhi, have collected the blood samples of a few patients. The team will make its findings known in a few days.

But the fear of the unknown has resulted in a mass exodus of villagers. Pulandar and Dhar villages under Malasa block are

the worst affected. About 1,000 people in these two villages alone are battling the disease. Dhar has taken the maximum number of casualties. The village has lost about 30 people but only one doctor has visited it so far. That was 15 days ago.

Kuldeep Singh and Ram Avtaar of Dhar break down screaming: “A lot of people can still be saved; we need doctors.” Rajesh (38) of Pulandar village says: “Everyone here is waiting for doctors to come and examine people; but they aren’t coming and we are counting our dead.” On Sunday morning, the mystery fever claimed Tilak Singh (35) and his nephew Vikas Singh (11).

Dhar still remains a perfect picture of neglect and apathy. Heaps of garbage continue to be littered all over. Houses are surrounded by stinking filth and roads are waterlogged — perfect breeding grounds for diseases like malaria. The village’s secondary school has been shut down for an indefinite period. Children would wade through knee-deep water to reach the school. Sad

Santosh Prajapati is struggling to cope with looking after eight family members who have been afflicted by the disease. He has hired a tractor to shift them to a hospital in Kanpur city. “I have borrowed money from my relatives… if they remain here they will die,” he says.




This outbreak started 2 weeks ago in one village and has now spread to over 350 villages, according to the report. It appears to me to be something h2h. Even for India, this is unusual.

Is WHO on the ground? I haven’t read anywhere that they are. Maybe I missed it.