As death the rat fever death toll rises in Kozhikode district the city corporation health department has undertaken a mass immunization programme against the disease. However, the unexpected demand for doxycycline, a preventive tablet against rat fever, has led to a shortage.
Officials are in a race against time to ensure the that the tablets are delivered through the corporation before more members of the public get infected by the disease.
“The shortage is only with the corporation and not with the Health Department or at the hospitals where suspected cases are being treated,” pointed out Health Officer, Dr RS Gopakumar from the Kozhikode corporation who was part of the task force constituted in May by the Kozhikode District Collector and Directorate of Health Services to tackle the Nipah Virus,“The shortage of doxycycline tablets is going to come, as no one anticipated the demand. Under my jurisdiction, which has 1 lakh people, so far 40,000 individuals have been covered,” he added.
Kozhikode metropolitan area has a total population of 20.3 lakh according to the 2011 census.
Doxycycline is used as a prophylactic measure against leptospirosis. The corporation is giving of 200 mg tablets on a seven-week course with two tablets to be consumed one a week.
“No one expected such a demand to arise, our stocks got depleted so we reached out the public in social media,” said the doctor. The film director Anjali Menon on social media had put out a request for the tablets to be arranged. “We have got responses from people and are expecting 2 lakh tablets to arrive by Tuesday. We arranged some for a local supplier, we got a few from Ernakulam and another 1 lakh from Mangalapuram,” he added.
However, these alone are not enough if the corporation plans to cover the whole population. “We need the tablets in large numbers, Kozhikode urban is a hot spot area as more cases are being reported from the locality. We estimate that there would a requirement of 14 to 15 lakh more doxycycline tablets for our corporation alone. Other areas are also facing a shortage,” said Gopakumar.
As of Monday evening, the death toll from confirmed cases of rat fever had risen to 41 in the state, since August 1. At present, there are 12 confirmed cases in Thiruvananthapuram and 20 in Kozhikode districts, which are showing some of the higher rates in the state.
Alerts have been issued to most districts in the state to be on the lookout for symptoms of the disease and people have been asked to go to a hospital right away, should they exhibit any symptoms.