Dengue cases rise pan-India; Kerala, Karnataka, UP and West Bengal worst-hit

India is experiencing an exceptional upsurge in Dengue cases this year. Kerala, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal stand out as the most affected states

Representative image
Representative image

Amarabati Bhattacharyya

India is experiencing an exceptional upsurge in Dengue cases this year with various states reporting multiple fresh cases everyday. Kerala, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal stand out as the most affected states.

According to the data from the National Centre for Vector-borne Diseases Control (NCVBDC), Kerala recorded 3037 cases and 20 fatalities – the most deaths recorded by a state this year. There have been no updates on the October figures yet, either from the Centre or the state.

Karnataka recorded 4 deaths and over 6000 cases up till the end of September and crossed the 7000 mark by mid-October, according to the state public health department.

“This vector borne disease is on a downward trend in other zones. However, we are continuing to create awareness on prevention, regular door-to-door surveillance to check larvae breeding in open water storage containers apart from fogging and spraying to prevent mosquito breeding,” said K.V. Trilok Chandra, special health commissioner, Bengaluru. The highest number of cases were recorded from Bengaluru.

UP has been witnessing a massive Dengue outbreak in several districts. According to health department records, the state has recorded over 18,000 cases so far this year and over 6,000 fresh cases were recorded in the past week alone, with Prayagraj being the most affected district.

However, as per the data released by the NCVBDC, only 2,060 cases were reported till September 30, presenting a disparity in figures. 

UP CM Yogi Adityanath held a meeting with top officials on Thursday to discuss the dengue outbreak and prevention, with deputy CM Brajesh Pathak claiming that the Dengue situation in the state was “under control”.

According to a report published by the public health department of West Bengal, the state had 42,666 Dengue cases this year till the end of October, the highest recorded number by the 43rd week in a year since 2017.

The state reported 5,936 Dengue cases last week and 694 fresh cases on Sunday – also the highest since 2017. The figures are expected to rise significantly in the coming days as winter sets in, which is the mosquito-breeding season. The department has not yet disclosed the death toll due to dengue.

Many locals have attributed this upsurge to the shoddy garbage disposal system in the state. “Open garbage is found at every turn of the road and near water bodies, which invariably increases the amount of Dengue-mosquitoes breeding in that area. I myself suffered from Dengue last year and was hit by Covid-19 in 2020. Dengue affected me worse than Covid-19 and has taken a toll on my immune system. Despite repeated appeals made to the municipality department, there is no strict garbage disposal mechanism in place and every third person dumps their garbage on the road,” said Subhra Das (53), a resident of New Town, Kolkata, 

Responding to the sudden upsurge in the state, Kolkata mayor and Trinamool Congress Minister Firhad Hakim stated that the onus of Dengue-prevention does not lie entirely with the administration and that citizens need to be more cautious.

“Dengue cases will keep rising unless people become conscious and take steps to prevent mosquito breeding. If people keep throwing small tea cups or other small containers here and there, they will turn into mosquito-breeding sites if water accumulates in them. It is not possible for any government or civic body to clear all such containers,” said Hakim.

“Dengue cases are rising everywhere, not just in Bengal. There have been a lot of Dengue cases in south India. Even in Bihar and UP, Dengue cases have crossed the previous records. We are hopeful that cases will come down by November-end,” he added. 

In sharp contrast to Hakim’s statements, doctors, virologists, and healthcare professionals are claiming that the nation might experience the highest rise in Dengue cases through these last two months of the year.

According to a senior scientist at the National Institute of Virology, Pune, heavy rainfall across the year is an overarching cause for the rise in cases this year. “The rains extended till October and this has led to increased mosquito breeding and that is why we are seeing a rise in cases across India,” he said.

Extended periods of heavy rains have led to extensive waterlogging in various parts of the nation, allowing for increased breeding of mosquitoes. Based on the NCVBDC data alone, Dengue cases are expected to cross the 1 lakh mark this year. 

“Our centre has definitely seen a sudden rise in dengue cases over the past few months. Often patients arrive with the misconception that Dengue-carrying mosquitoes affects only children and older individuals. We have taken in cases of adults in the 30-40 age affected with dengue," a senior virologist at Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine told National Herald. "Another misconception that even officials keep pushing is that keeping your immediate surroundings clean and shutting your doors and windows is a sure-shot way of preventing Dengue. These are not only unsustainable but also ineffective ways as Dengue-carrying mosquitoes can breed in any stagnant water body and there is no single way of preventing getting bitten by a mosquito. The responsibility of maintaining a mosquito-free clean environment definitely lies on the individual but more importantly through collective action,” he added.

Meanwhile in Delhi, 1,200 dengue cases were reported in October itself; NCVBDC data shows 2,067 cases till the end of September, which takes the infection tally of the disease above the 4000-mark in the national capital.

This is the highest number of cases registered in Delhi in the January-October period since 2017. 

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