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Bengal dengue outbreak, result of unplanned urbanisation: experts

Fear of the virus: People cover their faces as a municipal worker fumigates a slum area in Kolkata on Saturday and, right,   | Photo Credit: RUPAK DE CHOWDHURI

Bengal dengue outbreak result of unplanned urbanisation, say experts

Soumya Das, Kolkata

Rapid and unplanned urbanisation is the key reason behind current outbreak of dengue in West Bengal, experts said. They are of the opinion that large scale construction works in Kolkata as well as in semi-urban areas are providing ample breeding grounds to the female Aedes aegypti mosquito, the vector of the disease, which breeds in clean stagnated water. As per latest government estimates 40 people died due to dengue while at least 20,500 have been diagnosed with the disease.

Elaborating on the urban nature of dengue eminent virologist and former head of parasitology department (study of parasites) Amitava Nandi said that the Aedes aegypti mosquito mostly breeds in stagnated water in artificial containers. “Social change due to urbanisation has triggered a sharp increase in the use of artificial containers in the cities. Now products which were earlier sold in paper bags are coming in plastic packets and containers providing more breeding space to the female Aedes aegypti mosquito,” Dr. Nandi told The Hindu.

He also argued that with the use of containers spreading to semi-urban and rural area dengue is no longer confined to large cities

As for Kolkata he said that large scale use of artificial containers-which are not disposed properly-is the key reason behind the spread of dengue. “The same can be said for the rural areas of West Bengal where increased urbanisation has resulted into a spurt in the use of plastic containers leading to increase in Ades aegypti mosquito population,” said Dr. Nandi.

Experts also pointed out that unplanned building construction without proper drainage system in semi-urban and rural areas is contributing to the spread of dengue there.

“Even in rural areas of North 24 Paraganas district (which according to the State government is the worst affected with dengue) unplanned building construction without proper drainage system has increased over the last decade,” said Shanta Dutta, director of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED).

She also said that this year till September, the about 15% of the blood samples at NICED tested positive with dengue. “Since late September it has gone up to 40 to 45%,” she added.

The severity of the situation can be gouged from the fact that currently 108 dengue patients are admitted only in the State run Belieaghata Infectious Diseases (ID) hospital. “Apart from these 108 patients there are 214 other patients are admitted here with fever. If they are diagnosed with dengue the number of such patients will increase further,” said U.K.Bhadra, principal of the hospital.

As for the solution to the dengue crisis experts pointed out that so far there is no proper medicine available for the dengue and only supportive treatment can be provided to the patients.

“Dengue deaths can be avoided with early detection and proper treatment. Increasing public awareness about the disease is also key to tackle the situation,” said Dr. Dutta.

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Rapid, unplanned urbanisation is the main reason behind the current outbreak of dengue in West Bengal, experts have said. They are of the opinion that large-scale construction work in Kolkata as well as semi-urban areas provide ample breeding ground for the female Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the vector of the disease, which breeds in clean stagnated water. As per the latest government estimates, 40 people have died due to dengue while at least 20,500 have been diagnosed with the disease. Meanwhile, the Calcutta High Court on Friday instructed the State government to file an affidavit on the dengue outbreak in the State within a week.

Elaborating on the urban nature of dengue, eminent virologist and former head of parasitology department (study of parasites) Amitava Nandi said the Aedes Aegypti mosquito mostly breeds in stagnated water in artificial containers. “Social change due to urbanisation has triggered a sharp increase in the use of artificial containers in the cities. Products which were earlier sold in paper bags are coming in plastic packets and containers providing more breeding space to the Aedes Aegypti mosquito,” Dr. Nandi told The Hindu.

He said with the use of containers spreading to semi-urban and rural areas, dengue was no longer confined to large cities. “Earlier, Delhi and adjoining areas were known to be the hotbed of dengue as air coolers provided a perfect breeding space for Aedes Aegypti,” he said.

As for Kolkata, he said even though air coolers were not used in the city, large-scale use of artificial containers, which were not disposed properly, was a key reason behind the spread of dengue. “The same can be said for the rural areas of West Bengal where increased urbanisation has resulted in a spurt in the use of plastic containers,” said Dr. Nandi.

Experts also pointed out that unplanned building construction without proper drainage system in semi-urban and rural areas contributed to the spread of dengue.

“Even in the rural areas of North 24 Paraganas district (which, according to the State government, is the worst affected), unplanned building construction without proper drainage system has increased over the last decade,” said Shanta Dutta, director of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED).

She also said that this year till September, about 15% of the blood samples at NICED tested positive for dengue. “Since late September, it has gone up to 40 to 45%,” she added.

Dr. Dutta pointed out that dengue was a “climate sensitive disease” and areas with high temperature and population density were more likely to be affected by it. Senior journalist Debdut Ghosh Thakur, working on vector borne diseases, describes dengue as a typical urban disease. “Metropolitan cities usually witness high number of dengue cases due to a large number of construction work which creates more spaces where water accumulates,” said Mr .Ghosh Thakur.

The severity of the situation can be seen from the fact that currently 108 dengue patients are admitted in the State run Belieaghata Infectious Diseases(ID) hospital. “Apart from the 108 patients, there are 214 admitted here with fever. If they are diagnosed with dengue, the number of patients will increase further,” said U.K. Bhadra, principal of the hospital.

As for the solution to the dengue crisis, experts pointed out that so far there was no proper medicine. Only supportive treatment could be provided to patients.

“Dengue deaths can be avoided with early detection and proper treatment. Increasing public awareness about the disease is also key to tackle the situation,” said Dr. Dutta.

Sources in the State administration said the “current dengue outbreak has put the State government in a spot and it is suppressing related data to avoid further embarrassment.”

HC seeks report

The Calcutta High Court on Friday instructed the West Bengal government to file an affidavit on the dengue outbreak in the State during a hearing of three public interest litigation pleas filed over the issue. “The High Court has asked the State government to file an affidavit by next Friday stating the number of deaths due to dengue this year as well as the number of people diagnosed with the disease. The court also asked the Bengal government to clearly state what steps it is taking to tackle the situation,” said Partha Ghosh, one of the lawyers involved with the PILs.

Meanwhile, West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi has expressed concern over the spread of dengue and other viral diseases in the State. “Governor Tripathi has written a letter to the State government to the effect that, in view of the serious nature of all these diseases and the concern expressed by a large number of the population in this regard, all efforts should be made for treatment as well as prevention of these diseases,” said a statement issued by the Raj Bhavan.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2020 2:26:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bengal-dengue-outbreak-result-of-unplanned-urbanisation-experts/article19983235.ece

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