Stretched to the limit fighting COVID-19, the health system in the district is now gearing up to tackle monsoon-related diseases.
From January to May, Ernakulam district recorded 325 suspected cases of dengue. A total of 86 people were suspected to have contracted leptospirosis, and four deaths were recorded among them.
The number of dengue cases the district has witnessed this year is lower than the number seen for the same period last year, data shows. In 2020, a total of 608 suspected cases of dengue were recorded from January to May, and 972 cases were recorded in June alone. But with the rains beginning, cases could rise this year too, say health officials.
Last year, Ernakulam had seen two cases of coinfection of COVID-19 and leptospirosis and one of COVID-19 and dengue. This year, so far, there have been five cases of coinfection of leptospirosis and COVID-19 and two of dengue and COVID-19, according to Dr. Vinod Paulose, district surveillance officer for non-COVID diseases.
The district surveillance unit for COVID-19, in an analysis report last week, had warned of chances of coinfections and superinfections with the onset of the monsoon and associated vector-borne diseases.
While treatment is available at the General Hospital and taluk hospitals for non-COVID patients, ICU beds are other facilities are limited and taking preventive action is important, says Dr. Paulose. Observing dry-day every week is crucial, besides avoiding self-medication in case of fever, he adds.
Recently, the Kochi Corporation area, including parts of Ponnurunni, Chalikkavattom and Kaloor, has reported cases of dengue, says an official on the vector control unit. Parts of Angamaly, Nedumbassery and Thirumarady have also reported cases. “Since some establishments have remained closed for weeks now, rainwater has been collecting in items that are left lying around. When officers at a police station contracted dengue recently, we found that confiscated vehicles had turned into mosquito breeding spots. Indoor plants are also suitable breeding spaces, and since people are required to stay inside, more residents have taken to keeping such plants now,” he adds.
While lockdown and containment zone restrictions have hit vector control activities to some extent, health workers on the field, like ASHA workers, and public health nurses, are straddling COVID-19 and vaccination duties, making it difficult for them to carry out regular source-reduction activities to minimise mosquito breeding, says the official on the vector control unit. “We are now relying on awareness messages in the hope that residents will themselves identify and remove breeding sources,” he adds.
The house index, which is the number of houses out of 100 in a particular area showing presence of aedes mosquitoes, was found to be 14 in the Chalikkavattom area, and was as high as 23 in Ponnurunni, he says.
Aedes mosquitoes are known for “transovarial transmission” of the virus, which means that the virus can be passed on to the mosquito’s offspring through the eggs, accounting for several cases in the same area, says Dr. Paulose. This makes it important to not just clear stagnant water but also scrub containers clean, he adds.