Chikunguniya in Kerala: minister criticises ‘vested interests’


Thiruvananthapuram : Stung by criticism of its handling of the chikunguniya epidemic in Kerala that has claimed at least 40 lives in recent weeks, the state government Wednesday defended steps taken by it to contain the spread of the viral fever.

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Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan lashed out at those spreading rumours about the fever and said: "It is as if this is the first time that a fever has struck Kerala. This is done by people who want to tarnish the image of the state government.

"Have you all forgotten what all types of fever hit Kerala when P. Sankaran, (Congress minister) was health minister (in 2001-04)?"

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said the spread of the fever has been arrested due to the steps taken by the authorities and the armed forces.

"We have allocated Rs.10 million each to Kottayam and Pathanamitta districts and Rs.5 million each to other affected districts to augment the work in sanitation and also for buying medicines, mosquito nets and fogging machines," Achuthanandan told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting here.

The opposition Congress, however, demanded the resignation of Health Minister P.K. Sreemathi, alleging that authorities remained "callous" despite the chikunguniya outbreak last year.

"Authorities have committed a grave crime. They did not take up any vector control measures after the fever attack lat year that left more than 100 dead," said Ramesh Chennithala, state Congress president.

The outbreak of chikunguniya this year has claimed 40 lives according to the government though unconfirmed reports from various hospitals put the toll at above 60.

The worst affected have been Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts, with three deaths reported from Kottayam Wednesday.

The fever is spread by the byte of Aedes Egyptis mosquitoes. Its symptoms include body pain, rashes and headache; and it can be fatal in some cases.

The state government had last week requested armed forces to help fight the spread of the disease.

The army Wednesday flew in three cold fogging machines from the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune. This is the first time that these machines are being deployed in south India to tackle effectively the source of mosquito breeding.

The National Cadet Corps (NCC) will Thursday start a week-long cleanliness drive in the state.