Dengue rears its ugly head again in Chennai

Preventive measures: The Health Department has decided to focus on creating awareness, especially among schools and schoolchildren as well as self-help groups.

Preventive measures: The Health Department has decided to focus on creating awareness, especially among schools and schoolchildren as well as self-help groups.   | Photo Credit: M. Karunakaran

For the past few weeks, doctors in the city have been seeing a number of cases of dengue.

Both children and adults have been affected, say doctors, pointing out that the disease seems to have set in earlier than usual this year.

At Kanchi Kamakoti Childs Trust Hospital, there were over 50 cases of dengue seen last month, said senior consultant paediatrician Janani Sankar. “Most improved with out-patient care and only a few needed to be admitted to the hospital for two or three days,” she said.

With water scarcity hitting the city badly, there is a possibility that residents may have been storing water, and if the containers are not closed properly, this could have led to the breeding of dengue-causing mosquitoes, says Jaichitra Suresh, consultant physician, SIMS Hospital, Vadapalani, who saw some cases in the first week of June, and has again seen a few cases this month.

Padma Appaji, consultant paediatrician at Vijaya Group of Hospitals too, said that water storage could be a factor as well as the intermittent showers.

There have been two to three cases of dengue per week for the last few weeks, said Preetam Arthur, head of medicine at Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre, adding that the numbers usually peaked towards October.

Residents, said S. Subramanian, infectious diseases consultant, Gleneagles Global Hospital, must ensure water is stored safely and trash is properly disposed of and does not accumulate. “The dengue mosquito is a daytime biter so residents may have to use repellents in the day too, not just at night,” he said.

Dengue rears its ugly head again in Chennai

More cases this year

Dengue, a mosquito-borne viral infection that causes a flu-like illness and can potentially cause fatal complications, has been a problem for public authorities in the State for several years now. This year, Tamil Nadu has recorded the second-highest number of cases in the country after Kerala at 4,407 as of July 9. In only a little over six months, the State has already seen more cases than there were all of last year. Districts along the Western Ghats have especially been badly affected, said Director of Public Health K. Kolandaisamy.

In an effort to tackle the disease, the Health Department has decided to strongly focus on community awareness, especially among schools and schoolchildren as well as self-help groups.

In a review meeting on vector-borne held earlier this week in New Delhi, health officials had noted that community awareness and participation were crucial for the prevention of the disease and had urged all stakeholders to start awareness campaigns on preventive steps to be taken. “It is not just the job of the government, but also of the community when it comes to keeping surroundings clean. By controlling the vector, we can control dengue,” said Director General of Health Services Jagdish Prasad

Focus on schools

Tamil Nadu already has a school programme, said Dr. Kolandaisamy, but this year, the department will make an increased push in schools. “We have periodical announcements during the prayer sessions at schools and we conduct day-long awareness programmes for students and teachers,” he said. The focus is on overall cleanliness, proper storage of water, disposing of food waste, personal hygiene and mosquito control. “Schools are the mainstay when it comes to dengue prevention. Reaching one student is equal to reaching a household,” he said.

Last year, the Directorate reached over 1 crore school students in its awareness campaigns, Dr. Kolandaisamy said.

The Directorate is planning to ensure all schools follow a checklist of steps just before they close for vacations and before they re-open. This will include ensuring all water containers are emptied, all garbage and construction debris is cleared, and all rooms are closed as well as cleaning out overhead tanks, filling in fresh water and fogging if necessary.

“Plastic waste is a serious contributor when it comes to dengue. Discarded tubs, tea cups, buckets, boxes and broken items not only collect water and become breeding sources for mosquitoes, but they also block drains,” Dr. Kolandaisamy said.

Dengue rears its ugly head again in Chennai

Mapping of areas

The Directorate is also working on mapping areas where the Aedes aegypti mosquito — which carries the disease — breeds in order to better forecast problem areas, said Dr. Kolandaisamy.

Authorities in border districts are collaborating with other States, especially Kerala to share information on occurrence of cases as well as on control measures, he said.

India has seen a total of 18,740 cases this year, about double the number of cases same time last year, said Dr. Prasad, adding that early monsoon could be one reason for this. However, he said that mortality was less than one per cent. Tamil Nadu has recorded 3 deaths so far this year.

According to the World Health Organisation, the incidence of dengue has increased 30-fold over the last 50 years. The WHO says it is a fast emerging pandemic-prone viral disease. “Up to 50-100 million infections are now estimated to occur annually in over 100 endemic countries, putting almost half of the world’s population at risk.”






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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 9:59:11 AM |

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