If dengue has to be controlled, the State government should plan three years ahead, eminent virologist T. Jacob John said.
One of the most common and among the most difficult infections to control, dengue cannot be looked at in isolation. “Instead, we need to address mosquito-borne diseases as a group and take systematic and proactive steps for control,” Dr. John, retired professor of virology, Christian Medical College, told The Hindu .
Noting that plenty of planning was necessary for controlling dengue, he said, “If we start planning today, we can control dengue by 2020. There is a Dengue Prevention Board, an organisation set up by the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul in South Korea. If we have to seriously address dengue, we need to invite experts from the organisation and plan ahead. It takes a minimum of three years to plan a proper control measure.”
But the virologist cautions that focussing only on dengue and neglecting other infectious diseases will not yield desired results. “Dengue is among the most common infections and most difficult to control. In reality, we are paying attention after it occurs. But this symptomatic approach will not work out,” Dr. John said.
So what are the ways ahead? Dr. John lists out a few. “First, we have to have everybody on the same page. The mortality rate for dengue is less than one per 1,000. If we have more deaths, it means that doctors are not well aware about dengue management,” he said.
Secondly, he insists that quality control for dengue diagnosis was important.
“Next, there must be a system by which every doctor should report every case for the notified diseases list. This should be legally mandated. Every doctor will have to diagnose, report and treat. The reporting should be user-friendly and minimum time consuming,” he added.
Officials, he said, must collect, collate, analyse data and plan action.
“This cannot be done for one disease alone but for 16 to 20 infectious diseases,” he said.
Pointing out to the absence of a disease control system, he said for a country that has not controlled tuberculosis, typhoid, cholera, expecting to control dengue was too ambitious. “We should learn to control infectious diseases as a system,” he said.
He suggested that school students can be trained to be mosquito brigades.
“If you want to control dengue by 2020, it needs systematic planning, plenty of action, training, manpower and technical know-how. Prepare now for the next season,” he said.