Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fast spread of 'wild' disease worries city docs

CHENNAI: When a 54-year-old woman from Chintadripet was admitted to Apollo Hospitals earlier this week with severe breathing difficulty, diarrhoea and high fever, doctors initially suspected pneumonia. But when the doctors saw a little black scar on her hip, the diagnosis was rewritten asscrub typhus — a rare zoonotic disease usually contracted from the wild. What puzzled doctors was that the patient had not travelled anywhere outside the city recently.

While Apollo Hospitals alone claims to have seen at least 200 such cases this year, compared to just 15 in 2009, many other city hospitals, such as Kanchi Kamakoti Childs Trust, say that they too have seen similar numbers in children. The disease spreads through bites of chiggers (mites found in forests). The mite injects a bacterium, called rickettsia tsutsugamushi, into the blood stream.

"In more than 60% of the cases, the indicator is the mite bite mark. We can also do a simple blood (ELISA) test. This picks up the antibodies and confirms infection," said Dr V Ramasubramanian, consultant, department of infectious diseases, Apollo Hospitals. "We normally see such cases in people who have travelled to forests. But the patients we see today are city dwellers with no travel history to forests or densely vegetative regions. This means that the mite could be in our gardens or on roadside shrubs."

300 city buses broke down on poor roads

CHENNAI: Rain-battered city roads have proved costly to the Metropolitan Transport Corporation, whose buses are increasingly suffering from breakdowns and punctured tyres.

As many as 327 buses in the city and the suburbs broke down in the last month, mainly due to poor road conditions, sources said. Also, tyres of 30 to 40 MTC buses get punctured every day as they cannot withstand the damaged roads.

Many crew members said they were unable to run the buses on schedule, and it was taking an average of two hours more to complete the trips due to bad roads

Jayalalithaa makes friend Sasikalaa party executive committee member

CHENNAI: AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa has quietly reinstated Sasikalaa, her confidante who lives with her in her Poes Garden residence here, as a member of the party's executive committee.

While no official release was issued by the AIADMK about Sasikalaa's nomination to the party's executive committee, which includes 65 other women, the decision has been communicated to the party members. "This is nothing new. She has been a general council and executive committee member for several years now," observed an AIADMK senior. But significantly, this year, there is a clamour among Sasikalaa's relatives and influential members of the AIADMK hailing from her dominant Thevar community to also give her a key party post. Some are even suggesting the post of deputy general secretary.

"How does a post matter when Sasikalaa is practically running the party along with Amma?" remarked a former minister in the party. According to him, Jayalalithaa's long-time friend is an "excellent organiser" of field workers. "She knows every union and town secretary by name. She coordinates every day with the informal committees that the party has constituted in every region to monitor the functioning of party office-bearers. There is nothing that happens in the party that she does not know or is not aware of."

With Jayalalithaa having sidelined all the family members of Sasikalaa, including a couple of her high profile nephews, the more recent being Dr K Venkatesh, who was stripped off the post of the party's youth wing secretary, there is a feeling within the family that a member should have a formal representation in the party's top echelons. But focussing her stinging diatribes on Karunanidhi's indulgence of his family members and dynastic rule in the run up to the assembly election, Jayalalithaa may not be in a hurry to reward her closest friend with an influential post.

Sasikalaa's closeness to AIADMK supremo has been openly acknowledged by Jayalalithaa herself. However in August 1996, soon after the party's disastrous showing in the assembly election that year, Jayalalithaa was forced to distance herself from her friend. Jayalalithaa had then issued a statement saying that thousands of partymen had expressed the view that the AIADMK suffered defeat in the 1996 assembly polls mostly because of "the activities" of her friend's family. But about a year later, Sasikalaa was back in Poes Garden.