Chikungunya spreads its tentacles

  • 29/09/2006

Chikungunya spreads its tentacles The scene: late in the afternoon at the directorate of health and family welfare services in Bangalore. Officials, who claimed that no chikungunya case had been registered since August 22, had organised a trip to Bidadi primary health centre (phc) in Ramanagara taluka in Bangalore rural district. I had no expectations, though I did meet 58-year-old Nagaraja who was already recuperating and could even take care of his utensil shop.

Just as we were about to leave, an auto rickshaw entered the compound. A woman was helped off and she painfully hobbled her way towards the clinic. The 50-metre distance took around five minutes to traverse with her husband supporting her. When 38-year-old Nagamma finally made her way to the examination bed, her husband told me she had developed symptoms two hours ago. They had travelled 16 km from their village, Kollandanahalli, in neighbouring Kanakapura taluka.Neither was in a state to answer questions. She had a long wait ahead: the only doctor in the clinic was attending to another patient.

Karnataka, which reported the maximum number of suspected cases, is a good illustration of chikungunya's ravages. It first appeared in Gulbarga district in December 2005 and in the next seven months spread to all the districts of the state (see table: Spreading; and map: Travelling fast). Even though chikungunya is not fatal, its debilitating character deprives people of their livelihoods. The disease incapacitates people for anything between 15 days to three months because one of its main symptoms, excruciating joint pains, persists well after the fever caused by the disease subsides. In Karnataka, the disease came at a time when the land was being readied for the planting season

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