29 die in Tirunelveli; health officials strengthen surveillance

Reports of major dengue outbreaks across the border, in Tirunelveli, Madurai, and Kanyakumari districts in Tamil Nadu, have sent alarm bells ringing in border areas.

The Health Department is intensifying vector and fever surveillance and source reduction activities in the border areas of Vellarada-Parassala and Poovar as well as the eastern border areas of Kollam district so that the possibility of cross-border dengue transmission can be reduced.

2,000 cases in 2 months

Many dengue cases were reported in parts of Tirunelveli in the past two months (2,000 cases and 29 deaths, as per official figures).

Some of the severely affected areas are Kadayanallur, Thenkasi, and Amba Samudram in Tirunelveli. Health officials here reckon that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“According to the World Health Organisation, it is the movement of people rather than mosquitoes, which results in dengue transmission. There is regular movement of people from here to districts just across the border and back. We cannot restrict people's movement. Instead we are focussing on vector control activities to reduce the spread of infection,” a senior health official said.

Special teams constituting public health experts and entomologists from Thiruvananthapuram Medical College as well as senior Health officials from the State and district-level offices have been designated to monitor the fever situation and vector density in the Vellarada-Parassala-Poovar areas.

“The teams will visit these areas from June 4 to 6. They will look for any abnormal features among the fever cases and study the vector density and pattern. We have to identify the vulnerable wards in these areas and strengthen the source reduction activities here. We need to do intensive fogging in the locality within 200m of the border and create ‘mosquito-free zones,'” he said.

In 2010, senior Health officials from both States had met to chalk out a joint action plan for prevention and control of vector-borne diseases by strengthening disease surveillance, sharing information about cases on both sides and by launching control activities simultaneously.

Health officials said a meeting had already been convened at Parassala, under the initiative of the local MLA to discuss the sanitation activities there.

Co-infections

They said that there had been reports of dengue-leptospirosis co-infections from the border towns in Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari, which seemed to have contributed to the high case mortality there.

“Fever of two days is suddenly complicated with the appearance of jaundice on day three, accompanied by renal failure and sudden death. This is quite worrying for us because we already have a huge burden of dengue and leptospirosis cases and vector density is bound to go up as soon as it rains,” a health official pointed out.