February- March: Viral Attacks
In February, the first outbreak of H5N1 bird flu
was reported in Maharashtra.
Thousands of chicken were culled by the authorities. Poultry traders suffered
crores in losses. And later, to prove that eating chicken was safe, the sarkar
roped in the babus for PR. Upma Chawdhury, Joint Secretary, animal husbandry,
dramatically bit into a leg piece at a press conference, saying, "I’m a
vegetarian, but in national interest, I’m not going to be chickening out."
But then the rains brought more bad news—dengue and chikungunya. Dengue hit
the rich and the poor alike—PM Manmohan Singh’s son-in-law and grandsons
caught the virus. Far more serious was the chikungunya epidemic, a viral fever
spread by mosquitoes, sweeping across south India, Maharashtra, Gujarat and
Madhya Pradesh. The health department woke up too late. The deadly East African
virus showed up in India after three decades and infected over 1.2 million
people. As on 22 November, for which figures were available, 172 people died of Dengue and 10,412 were infected with virus. Malaria killed 819 people in the country till Novemeber 17, around 444 persons died due to Japanese Encephalitis till October and Kala Azar killed 187 people till September. A total of 1612 people died due to mosquito-borne diseases, including Dengue, in the country this year, as compared to 2959 the previous ye