Chikungunya, a relatively rare form of mosquito-transmitted viral fever, has claimed 12 lives in Betul district of Madhya Pradesh, and the disease has spread to three more districts.
'With three more deaths Sunday - two from remote Dunava and one from Multai - the total number of deaths allegedly due to Chikangunya fever in Betul district has reached 12,' a source in the medical fraternity here said Thursday.
'The dead include a 10-year-old girl, Preeti, and a senior citizen and freedom fighter, Laxman Singh Parihar. Over a dozen others are in critical condition with no signs of improvement even after regular medical aid,' the source told IANS requesting anonymity.
'Chikangunya, affecting over 60,000 odd population, is now spreading to other districts - Chhindwara, Badwani and Burhanpur. However, 70 blood samples have been dispatched to New Delhi-based National Institute of Communicable Diseases and a report is expected next week,' he added.
The Chikungunya fever, which was first reported a month ago in the state, reportedly entered Madhya Pradesh through villages in Betul district bordering Maharashtra.
Health Minister Ajay Vishnoi admitted that Chhindwara, Badwani and Burhanpur were affected with the fever. However, he said, 'The situation is under control and even the Maharashtra government has praised my department's rapid action to tackle the disease.'
'The number of affected villages had reached 82 in the past one fortnight but now it is decreasing as the health department and district authorities are working round the clock to destroy the larva of this mosquito,' he added.
On the deaths in Betul, he said: 'It is yet to be confirmed whether they were due to Chikungunya - symptoms of which are quite similar to other viral fevers.'
A victim of Chikungunya gets fever up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit with a sudden onset of flu-like symptoms, including severe headache, chills, nausea, vomiting and joint pain, said a doctor.
'A rash and joint pain may accompany the fever. There can also be headache and slight photophobia. Most patients recover within three to five days. Some can suffer from joint pain for months. The joints of the extremities in particular become swollen and painful to touch. Children may display neurological symptoms,' he added.
The spread of the disease, akin to dengue, first reported in Maharashtra in 1965, is more alarming as it can lead to an outbreak of the deadly dengue fever.