Back in the day, a mosquito bite was a minor irritant, to be swatted away. But now, to the denizens of the city, these little insects are lethal. Dengue, at least to some, is death by another name.

It is a man-made problem which has defied all solutions till date. If the city faces an unprecedented burden of dengue and a frightening number of suspected deaths from the infection this year, point a finger at the huge piles of garbage, with plastic waste in good measure, accumulating on the streets.

The district has recorded 3,279 cases of dengue this year (till August 6). There have been 51 suspected and five confirmed deaths — something which health officials have been unable to explain away. In the past five to seven years, deaths have been few despite a high case burden of dengue.

Leptospirosis, or rat fever, which is more strongly linked to rotting garbage on the streets and the consequent increase in the rodent population, has been on the rise. The district has reported 191 cases and 15 suspected deaths from the infection this year.

Dengue, if it has become the bane of the capital city, should be seen as a natural consequence of rapid and indiscriminate urbanisation, crowded living environs, shortage of basic amenities such as safe drinking water supply and insufficient infrastructure to deal with garbage.

After pumping in massive resources and manpower in experimenting with various mosquito-control strategies over the years, public health officials have, more or less, conceded defeat in the war against mosquitoes.

“The Health Department can only do so much. Dengue vector mosquitoes are breeding in plenty both inside and outside homes. Source reduction and keeping the environs clean are the only known and sustainable solutions the world over for mosquito control. Aedes albopictus, a mosquito which originally used to breed in the wild, has now been identified as the primary dengue-causing vector in the State, overtaking Aedes aegypti,” a senior health official said.

“Small stagnant pools of water in plastic carry-bags, disposable vessels or bottles without caps thrown carelessly along with other garbage or even egg shells become ideal breeding places for Aedes albopictus. Huge mounds of garbage — predominantly plastic waste — accumulating on the road sides in various parts of the city have certainly added to the burgeoning mosquito population in the city.”