Two vector-borne diseases – chikungunya and dengue – impose a burden of $1.4 billion on the nation every year, according to a national-level study undertaken by the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad through its Centre for Management of Health Services (CMHS).

The findings will soon be published in the Dengue Bulletin of the World Health Organisation and this is the first time that the cost has been quantified through scientific evaluation, said S.S. Vasan, Visiting Research Fellow, the University of Oxford, here on Friday.

Speaking to The Hindu, he said the $1.4 billion cost included treatment, wage loss, doctors’ fee, productivity impact, hospitalisation and expenses incurred by family members of affected persons who visit hospitals. The study was led by Dileep Mavalankar of the CMHS and the conclusions were arrived at early this year. It was also a multi-country study covering the U.S., U.K., Malaysia and other nations, said Dr. Vasan, who was one of the co-investigators of the project.

He said the cost estimate for India took into account both reported and unreported cases. “The money people have been spending on mosquito coils and funds utilised by government for vector control activities like fogging were also included to arrive at the total cost for India.”

Immense burden

Stating that the burden was immense for India because of the breakout of chikungunya and dengue every year, he said 90 per cent of the burden was shared by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

Dr. Vasan, who is also the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Oxitec, a company that promotes technology/inventions made at Oxford University, was in the city to participate in the third conference on ‘Medical Arthropodology,’ organised by the Centre for Research in Medical Entomology (CRME), a laboratory of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Earlier, he delivered a lecture explaining the newly developed mathematical model to study flight/distance covered by mosquitoes and what terrain conditions that suited them most.

“There are around 3,500 mosquito species and not all of them are our enemies. The mosquitoes that cause immense burden to us in cost and health factors must be studied scientifically,” Dr. Vasan observed. The two-day CRME conference is being attended by nearly 100 scientists/entomologists form various places and is focussed on the theme ‘Integrated Disease Vector Management-Operational Research.’

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