Dubai: Sudden death of a Grade 2 student Shiba Fatima on Wednesday, a tragedy that follows the deaths of two other students within the last one month, is causing panic among parents in the Indian community.
On November 14, Aliya Niyaz Ali, 17, a grade 11 student died of a suspected flu, while on October 29, Amna Sharaf, 9, a grade 4 student died following a weeklong hospitalisation after she complained of fever, nausea and vomiting.
All three deceased girls hailed from Kannur district in the south Indian state of Kerala.
Shiba, 7, a student of Gulf Asian School Sharjah, died on Wednesday after suffering from what seemed to be fever and indigestion for two days.
Her grief-stricken mother, Safeera Sathar, is leaving for her hometown in the Kannur district of Kerala on Saturday.
“I cannot bear to visit the empty room of my daughter,” she told Gulf News. “After her death, I have been staying with my sister and I plan to leave for India. I don’t know when I will return,” said the sobbing mother.
Talking of her daughter’s health, she said, “Shiba never fell ill even for a single day. She was a bright, active child, who led the school assembly, always scored full marks in most subjects and was bursting with energy and enthusiasm. At home, she would often coax me to take her lessons although she was always well prepared as she studied hard. She would play a lot as well, and couldn’t stop loving animals,” recalled the mother.
Talking of the timeline of her daughter’s last two days, Shatha said, “Shiba went to school on Monday (November 26) and came home at 12 noon as schools closed early due to the rains. That day, she told me that she was feeling a bit feverish. In the evening, we took her to our family physician who suggested Shiba undergo tests for influenza. The tests came negative, so we breathed a sigh of relief,” said the mother, fighting back her tears.
However, despite testing negative for influenza, Shibha felt nauseous and had vomiting bouts on Monday evening. “The physician prescribed her paracetamol and anti-vomiting pills. By Tuesday, when the vomiting continued, the doctor put her on an IV drip.”
Later. Shiba told her mother that she was not able to breathe properly.
Shiba’s father, Shauki Mannan, who works for a multinational company, decided on Wednesday morning that his daughter was looking dehydrated and brought her to the emergency room of the NMC Hospital in Al Nahda.
“Within half an hour, they wheeled her to the ICU,” said Shatha. “My daughter kept asking me, ‘Mom, what are the doctors going to do?’ She was very fearful.”
Shatha said she reassured her daughter saying she would soon be well and that calmed her down.
“But she never came out of the ICU — within the next hour, she passed away.”
Hospital sources told Gulf News that there was little they could do as the patient was brought to the hospital in a very serious condition. The mother confirmed that Shiba’s blood tests indicated her platelet volume was only 7,000 when it should have been above 150,000 and her haemoglobin count was 4 which should have been 11 or 12. Her death certificate indicates she died due to septic shock, acute hepatitis and acute gastroenteritis.
Shibha has two brothers, Mohmmad Shezin, 11, and Shayan, 5,
A majority of Indian schools have issued precautionary health advisory to parents asking them to not neglect any signs of fever, cough and cold, advising them to seek immediate medical intervention, The school circulars are instructing parents ‘not to send’ a child with even mild fever to school and to take preventive vaccinations for influenza. However, parents are not sure if one vaccination shot would be enough to protect their child.
Three tragedies in a month
Three Indian school-going girls who died within the span of a month with brief incidences of fever and other symptoms, all belonged to Kannur district in Kerala and two had visited their hometown during the summer holidays in July.
Amna Sharaf, 9, a grade 4 student of Our Own Indian High School, died on October 30. She had been ill with fever and cold, nausea and vomiting from October 22 during which time she was treated at two hospitals but her heart was affected and she succumbed within seven days.
Similarly, Aliya Niaz Ali, 17, the grade 12 student from Indian High School, Dubai, contracted mild fever and cold for two days. She too was referred to her family physician who treated her with paracetamols and anti-histamines. She recovered, resumed school for a day and returned home feeling sick again on October 12. On October 13, despite taking medications, when she complained of severe abdominal and chest pain, her parents decided to admit her to the emergency ward of Rashid Hospital. She was admitted on the morning of October 14, and died the same evening. Aliya too had visited Kannur during summer holidays in July, her family said.
Shiba Fatima was in Kannur in July for her summer holidays.
According to medical experts, the possibility that the girls had contracted some form of viral and bacterial infection is remote as such infections do not have such long gestational periods. Further, the three girls did not have any reported incidents of discomfort immediately after returning from their holiday and attended school as normal, without having taken a single day’s sick leave.