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Adenovirus: A virus outbreak has put children’s lives in peril in West Bengal

A virus outbreak, threatening the lives of children, has gripped India’s populated eastern state of West Bengal with fear. The state chief and policymakers have come out to pacify citizens, even as they open helpline numbers and ramp up hospital beds.

The state’s health department has also issued an advisory amid the spike in acute respiratory infection cases in children. On other hand, the state said respiratory infections are “very common during the ongoing season.”

The death tally due to so-called acute respiratory infections is climbing in the state, but hospital and state officials are not attributing the deaths to be due to adenovirus.

Some media reports say the unofficial count of death toll is about 50, but the state supremo recently said that only two babies died of adenovirus infections in Bengal out of 12 babies’ deaths recorded in the state during the last one month.

“The death of every child is unfortunate. Underweight and premature babies with comorbidities are mostly at risk. There is nothing to fear. We have readied around 5,000 beds and 600 doctors,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday after an emergency meeting.

Watch Mamata Banerjee’s Press Conference| Adenovirus in West Bengal: No need to panic, have arranged 5,000 beds

Several doctors have said they have seen a 50% jump in such cases this year compared with other years.Dwaipayan Jha, a Kolkata-based paediatrician, said he is seeing a ‘large-scale’ jump in patients with symptoms of the flu and the treatments are mostly done based on the symptoms. Jha said it perhaps is also not possible to test all children given the spike in cases of acute respiratory infections.

As for the symptoms, it starts with low fever and then body temperature escalates to 102-103 degree celsius. Kids are also complaining of throat infection and then either stomach ache or diarrhea. Some kids are also suffering from respiratory discomfort, the paediatrician said.

If there is any comorbidity, then severity intensifies in cases of either viral or bacterial infections, Jha added. In cases where kids have cardiac problems, then an adenovirus attack on them leads to secondary bacterial pneumonia, which can be life threatening.

Paediatric beds in the state are either full or fast filling up, with reports of a single bed being used for more than two kids. A father whose child died at B C Roy Hospital in Kolkata said three children were put on a single bed.

“My son had to undergo treatment for five days in one of Kolkata’s top women and child care hospitals for he had adenovirus-type symptoms. However, there were hardly any women patients and the hospital was full of children, almost all suffering the same symptoms,” Debasis Bangabash, a Kolkata-based businessman said.

The hospital was full of children between eight months to 13-14 years, he added.

Bangabash said his son was not tested for the virus and no one “spelled out” the disease in the hospital.

There are no approved antiviral medicines and no specific treatment for people with adenovirus infection. While there is no specific treatment, hospitals and doctors are largely opting for providing supportive care. Some doctors are also of the opinion that the strain of adenovirus may have mutated. Type 3 and type 7 of adenovirus are circulating now, DownToEarth reported.

Dr. Dwaipayan Jha also flagged that the virus is highly transmissible and this calls for added caution. However, it is not easy to go for any form of localised lockdowns.

The new outbreak has sparked fears among parents, whose kids were either born around the pandemic years or whose early years were spent amid the horrors of coronavirus.

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