KOLKATA: The dengue epidemic this year has claimed nine lives so far, though none of them had haemorrhagic fever — a trend which has left doctors worried.
None of the nine had capillary leak syndrome, which results from very low platelet count. Instead, they suffered organ failures after a bout of high fever. Several patients who are now under treatment at various hospitals are suffering from organ dysfunction as well. The reason could be an altered genome in the dengue virus, say experts.
Around 5-10% of the dengue patients admitted to hospitals are stated to be serious. Very few of them have haemorrhagic fever. Most have suffered organ failures following the usual dengue symptoms — high fever, headache and joint pain.
"A huge number of people have been affected this time, which points to an altered strain. Secondly, some viral infections, including dengue, can affect the heart, leading to cardiac myopathy. It could be fatal as has been proved in some cases this year," said Amitabha Saha, consultant at Ruby Hospital.
In a majority of the cases, however, the attack has been mild, said doctors. "But the severe cases have been more severe than usual. Many have suffered a quick renal failure, even though their blood-pressure was normal. Some have even suffered a twin organ failure — usually lung and kidney — in the space of 24 hours. This is deceptive and we are having to monitor the patients closely and round-the-clock," said Arindam Kar, director, Medica Institute of Critical Care.
Mary Banwar, the support staffer at Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS), who succumbed to dengue on Tuesday, didn't have haemorrhagic dengue. She suffered a cardiac arrest even though her platelet count was normal.
"It suggests that the dengue virus triggered cardiac myopathy. But we can't be sure unless the strain is analyzed," said Saha.
The other trend that has left doctors puzzled is the age group of patients. Unlike on previous occasions, the young have been affected in hordes this time.
"We have been flooded with patients between 20 and 40 years of age. This is unusual, for this group is less vulnerable to viral attacks than the elderly and children who have lower resistance. A reason could be that this group is contracting the virus from their workplaces, schools and colleges," said Saha.