It’s not as bad this year as it has been in the past, but doctors say several cases of dengue continue to come in and with the rains set to intensify, residents need to remain vigilant.
For Mini Prasad, a 43-year-old housewife from Arakonnam, who was treated at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (GH), the symptoms started with high fever and severe body pain. “I could barely get up – that’s how bad the pain was,” she said. After four days of treatment however, she was considerably better.
Though GH has seen 123 suspected cases of dengue this month – many of them from outside the city, doctors say there have been no deaths and the patients are recovering quite well.
“This year, early diagnosis, better awareness among residents and possibly, a less virulent strain of the virus have led to “less sickness” compared to previous years,” said J.K. Reddy, paediatrician at Apollo Children’s Hospital, explaining that there are four strains of dengue, a disease transmitted by an infected Aedes mosquito.
A fever that does not settle even after 48 hours, body pain, stomach pain, a rash and decreased urine output are the symptoms to look out for. If these are present, the sooner you get to a doctor, the better, said Dr. Reddy adding that staying hydrated was crucial. “A lot of patients are misled by the platelet count. Even if you have dengue, the platelet count does not drop in the first day or two. It only happens by the fourth or fifth day. But it is vital to begin treatment before that,” he said.
According to the Chennai Corporation, the number of dengue cases in the city has dropped from 310 in 2010, to 133 in 2013 and 56 this year as of September.
“Avoid taking over-the-counter drugs”, said Padma Appaji, consultant paediatrician, Vijaya Group of Hospitals. While paracetamol in the recommended dosage is fine for the first 48 hours, other drugs should not be taken as they could lead to complications like gastritis and bleeding, she said.
“The incubation period is about 5-7 days. So, symptoms may only begin after that. Residents should also ensure their premises are free of mosquito breeding sources,” she said.
Officials at the directorate of public health said a mosquito control drive is taking place across the State.
Is dengue being under-reported?
A recent study estimated that the annual number of dengue cases in India is 282 times higher than officially reported.
In 2013, India's National Vector Borne Diseases Control Program reported an annual average of 20,474 dengue cases and 132 dengue-related deaths since 2007. The study however found that India had nearly six million annual clinically diagnosed dengue cases between 2006 and 2012
The study was conducted by researchers at Brandeis University, the INCLEN Trust International in New Delhi, and the Indian Council of Medical Research Centre for Research in Medical Entomology (CRME) in Madurai.
It was published earlier this month in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.