Over 2000 complain of fever, govt says ‘it means nothing’ Express news service Posted online: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 0246 hrs IST Kolkata, January 22 About 2,324 cases of people suffering from fever have been reported from the Birbhum district — Ground Zero of the bird flu outbreak in the state — in the last five days. “The West Bengal Government is failing to understand the gravity of the situation,” said Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare P Lakshmi, during a visit to Birbhum on Tuesday. Lakshmi, who is currently in the state to get a first hand assessment of the culling operations, did not find adequate health infrastructure to combat the bird flu threat. She criticised the state government for acting irresponsibly and lacking seriousness to fight the disease. “There is no infrastructure, not even qualified doctors. We have sent pills and gear but the required equipment is not in place till date. They do not understand that this is an emergency situation and they should be prepared for it,” she added. She blamed the state Animal Resource Development department for the spread of the virus to new areas, as it did not carry out culling operations in a swift manner. The state government, however, maintained that there has been no case of H5N1 virus infecting humans, and tried to play down its own figures of fever cases in Birbhum. “There is no need to panic. We do not have any reports of humans being infected. Therefore, a few hundred fever cases means nothing,” said Sanchita Bakshi, state director health services. (Well, if the .gov said it, it must be true) According to the status report, as many as 707 fever cases were reported from Birbhum district on January 18. A day later and another 304 people were added to the list. For January 20, which happened to be a Sunday, the report does not give any figures. On January 21, 707 more cases were added to the existing figures and today an additional 613 cases of fever were recorded. The report further stated that that six central rapid response teams are assisting the state government in culling operations. Five human blood samples taken from South Dinajpur district have tested negative, the report added.