Thiruvananthapuram has the dubious distinction of being the dengue capital of Kerala, recording almost 70 per cent of the dengue caseload of the State annually
Ironically, Thiruvananthapuram has earned the notoriety of being the dengue capital of Kerala because of a better fever surveillance and reporting system, excellent diagnostic services and good clinical dengue management practices, senior Health Department officials say.
The number of confirmed dengue cases reported in the State since January from all districts, say official statistics, will be 1,150-plus. Thiruvananthapuram accounts for 808 of those cases (till June 23), while the remaining 300-odd cases are scattered across all districts, mostly in single- and two-digit numbers.
“The 808 confirmed dengue cases were detected from a total of 2,251 suspected dengue cases, out of a total of 98,290 viral-fever cases. There have been no dengue deaths. It just goes to show the strength of our disease surveillance system and the fact that our field-level activities are well organised,” a senior health official said.
The urban environment and climatic conditions in Thiruvananthapuram are not drastically different from those of other districts. In fact, in plantation districts, the actual caseload should be much higher than in Thiruvananthapuram because the vector-breeding habitats in the wild can hardly be controlled through any human intervention, it is pointed out. It is because of gross under-reporting that other districts are showing a less dengue caseload, the district health officials here say.
“It is true to a large extent that Thiruvananthapuram has been reporting more cases because of its excellent reporting system and diagnostic facilities. However, the poor solid-waste management system in the capital and the fact that dengue has been endemic in Thiruvananthapuram for the past several years too have to be taken into account when pondering the increasing dengue caseload here,” a public health expert pointed out.
Once a disease is endemic in a region, total control or elimination of the disease is not a viable task, especially when combined with vector- control measures which are at best adopted only seasonally.
However, it is to the district’s credit that it reports the highest number of suspected dengue cases, most of which are tested at the Public Health Lab or the Government Medical College. The early detection PCR test for dengue is available at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology and some select private sector institutions. This year, the number of suspected dengue cases which came for testing has been much higher than last year, indicating that the doctors too are watchful about treating viral fever cases.