Are we losing the war on dengue, chikungunya and mystery fever?

Be it heavy breeding, unplanned construction or possible virus mutation, the dengue and chikungunya cases have spiraled out of control this year. Emergence of mystery fever makes the situation worse


Dengue spreads its tentacles

More than 28,000 cases of dengue have been reported in the country, and it is not even October. This vector-borne disease has reached alarming proportions in Kerala, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. With 24 deaths reported so far, West Bengal is the worst-affected state. Last year, the death toll was 14. Already, 5,600 cases have been reported. The number of cases will increase in the coming six weeks before the incidence of the disease is expected to fall. Casualties have been higher in areas where stagnant water is a perennial problem. The civic agencies are being blamed for the alarmingly high number of dengue deaths this year.

Uttar Pradesh, which has seen a three-fold jump in dengue cases as compared to last year, suffers from the same problem: stagnant water, especially at construction sites. As many as 2,173 cases have been reported till September 12 as against 731 in the corresponding period in 2015. Three people have died. About 24 districts are currently under its grip. According to official data, 179 cases were reported in the past 24 hours.

Delhi ill-equipped

At least 1,158 cases of dengue have been reported in the national capital with nearly 390 of them being recorded in the first 10 days of September. This is the time when this vector-borne disease begins to peak. In October, the city recorded a staggering 7,283 cases in October alone. With October still couple of weeks away, the national capital is expected to see a major rise in dengue cases. At least nine deaths due to dengue have been reported so far.

The magnitude of the problem is realised when you know that government hospitals in the city are running out of beds. Serious questions have been raised about whether health infrastructure of Delhi can cope with the crisis since it has less than three beds per 1,000 people, far less than five per 1,000 recommended by the WHO.

Moreover, the flu outbreak has hit the capital’s primary labour force. Work on roads and bridges are delayed by weeks as migrant workers leave the city. Disease outbreak has also depleted sanitation work force in East Delhi.

Kerala shows the way

Down south, 5,286 cases were reported in Kerala till August, as against 4,114 in 2015. However, thanks to early detection of the disease, the death toll has been contained. Nine people have died as against 29 last year. Health officials have managed the dengue outbreak effectively so far by setting up blood transfusion facilities in every districts and talukas. Getting platelets has become lot easier for patients.

Hyderabad and Bhubaneswar struggle

Hyderabad has reported seven deaths till August this year against just two in 2015. In the same month, it recorded 135 cases, almost double the cases (73) it witnessed last year.

Dengue fever scare gripped Bhubaneswar after seven persons from the Salia Sahi slum here tested positive for the disease in the last week of August. It is only after the cases surfaced that the administration stepped up measures to prevent and curb incidents of dengue.

Under-reporting of dengue cases

The figures released by corporations and government agencies are not reflective of the crisis because there has been massive under-reporting of cases. In absence of a robust infrastructure in government health facilities, a good number of patients don’t visit government hospitals and resort to private practitioners close to their places of residence. Those cases often don’t get recorded in official data.

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