In response to an epidemic of the chikungunya virus that is sweeping through India, Direct Relief International is providing cash support to its health partners in the region to combat the virus and treat patients infected by the virus.
Direct Relief has committed $14,664 in cash for the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre (AIMS) in Cochin, Kerala, for use in immediate emergency response efforts. The initial cash commitment will be used to purchase 3,000 chikungunya test kits. An eight-person medical team from AIMS will use the test kits in conjunction with their Direct Relief-funded mobile telemedicine van for disease surveillance and testing.
Direct Relief continues to be in contact with other members of its partner network in India and is gathering a list of medical needs for the ongoing efforts.
Chikungunya is a rare virus spread by a specific species of mosquito. The virus is mainly found in tropical areas. Symptoms include severe fever, joint and muscle pain, rashes, and possible hemorrhaging, which usually lasts three to seven days. A vaccine exists for the virus, but has not been widely marketed. Direct Relief is currently working with its partners to determine the appropriateness of the vaccine and possible ways to acquire it.
According to the Government of India’s Press Information Bureau, there is a total of 1,653 confirmed cases as of October 23rd. The country is also being hit hard by an outbreak of dengue fever, a virus similar in its symptoms to chikungunya.
“Kerala State has been overtaken by yet another calamity in the form of chikungunya epidemic that has taken over a hundred lives. The state government of Kerala is treating this as a statewide emergency and has formally requested AIMS to be in forefront of efforts to fight back against this potentially fatal infection,” said Dr. Ajit N. Babu, a medical professor at AIMS.
AIMS is a multi-specialty, charitable non-profit medical center established in 1998. In its six years of operation, the facility has treated over 57,000 inpatients and more than 590,000 outpatients.
Over the last two years, Direct Relief has played a major role in responding to the natural disasters that included the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the major earthquake in Kashmir and Pakistan. In response to the disasters, Direct Relief has provided over $95 million in direct through medical material assistance and targeted cash grants in the three catastrophic disasters.
Since 2005, Direct Relief has provided more than $30 million in medical material assistance and $2.87 million in cash grants to India, including aid in response to the 2004 tsunami.