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February 16, 2002
2159 IST

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14 hospitalised, efforts on to check spread of mystery disease in Himachal

As a plague-like disease continues to create panic in Himachal Pradesh and neighbouring Uttaranchal, authorities are planning quarantine measures and have asked people not to move out of the affected hamlets to prevent the spread of the disease.

The mysterious disease, occurring first on February two in a village in Shimla district, has so far claimed three lives, including one in neighbouring Uttaranchal.

Union Health Minister C P Thakur said that the government was taking steps to quarantine the affected villages and restrict movement of people to those areas.

As doctors struggled to identify the plague-like disease, 14 people - nine admitted to the PGI Hospital in Chandigarh and five to the Rohru Civil Hospital in Shimla district - were undergoing treatment for the disease. One case is stated to be serious.

"There has been no fresh outbreak of cases after February eight and the nature of the disease, symptoms of which are similar to plague, would be known by Monday," health ministry sources said.

While rat traps have been set up and fleas collected from the affected areas, people have been advised not to move out from the affected hamlets in order to prevent spread of the disease, the sources said.

A three-member team of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) has visited the affected areas for an on-the-spot study of the mysterious disease. It is likely to submit its report by Monday.

Stating that there was no need for panic, Medical Superintendent of PGI Dr R K Sharma said that even if the disease actually turned out to be plague, it had very little chances of breaking into an epidemic.

A report from Shimla said that no new case has been reported either from Rohru, Saraswati Nagar or Jubbal areas of Shimla district, where the disease reportedly broke out.

One doctor from the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Gwalior, is visiting Chandigarh to assist the medical team at PGI in investigating the outbreak.

Thakur, who is constantly monitoring the situation, said that nothing could be said conclusively on the nature of the disease. However, the victims showed symptoms similar to that of pneumonic plague, he said.

The Centre had already supplied the required quantity of medicines and antibiotics to the Himachal government, he said.

A control room had been set up in the directorate general of health services to provide necessary technical guidance and medical facilities to the state government, he added.

Meanwhile, Himachal Health Minister J P Nadda on Saturday said no 'authoritative statement' could be made about the nature of the disease till the report of a fact-finding team was received.

He said no fresh case has been reported so far and the number of patients in the isolation ward of the Rohru civil hospital had come down to four.

The demand for medicines in the area had also come down drastically, Nadda said adding, "Only 30-40 people had come for medicines in Rohru and 20 at Jabbal as against 6218 people on Friday."

On the orders of Chief Minister P K Dhumal, a medical officer had been deputed to PGIMER, Chandigarh with directions to take care of all financial needs of the patients admitted there and their attendants.

Similar instructions had been conveyed to the deputy commissioner in Shimla for the patients admitted at Rohru, he said.

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