Two persons who tested positive for the Zika virus died over the past week, as the number of positive cases in Madhya Pradesh climbed to 84. State health department officials familiar with the matter, however, said on Saturday that the deaths were not because of the virus but other diseases.
Of the two deaths, the first was of a 21-year-old man on Tuesday night. The second was of a 19-year-old woman on Thursday, the officials said. But they refused to disclose where exactly the deaths had taken place to prevent the spread of panic.
“The deaths were not due to Zika virus. A 21-year-old man died as he was suffering from Japanese encephalitis while a young woman died as she was infected with diabetes mellitus. It is incidental that they also tested positive for Zika virus,” said Dr Himanshu Jayswar, the official spokesperson for the department of health, Madhya Pradesh.
The officials, however, conceded that the virus was spreading and 84 people, including 17 pregnant women, had tested positive over the last 10 days.
The affected areas include Sironj in Vidisha district, a village in Sehore, three localities in Bhopal and a locality in Sagar, they said, refusing to give further details.
“The sudden outbreak happened in these areas. Health department teams are working 24×7 to contain the virus. We are hoping that it would be controlled in three or four days,” Dr Jayswar said.
On Saturday, about 200 people across the state were tested for the virus on the suspicion that they might be infected, the officials said.
“Three patients first tested positive for the Zika virus on November 1. In 10 days, the numbers have increased to 84. In Madhya Pradesh, testing facility is available only at AIIMS Bhopal. Many people in the affected areas are complaining of rashes on their body, fever and redness in the eye but due to infrastructure constraints, the testing process is very slow,” said a health official who is not authorised to speak to the media.
Officials of the emergency medical relief wing of the Directorate of General Health Services, Delhi, are camping in the affected areas. The health department has called a meeting on Sunday and chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will chair it, an official said.