New Delhi: While India is recovering from the pandemic, the outbreak of dengue has created havoc in several parts of the country. According to the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, reveals that India has recorded more than 59,000 cases and more than 25 deaths till September 2021. The data also outlines that Uttar Pradesh has reported 8,977 cases and 6 deaths, whereas Maharashtra has reported 8302 cases and 14 deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized that dengue is considered as one of the 20 neglected tropical diseases (NTD).
The first instance of the epidemic was recorded in Madras, now Chennai, in 1780, and the first virologically proven epidemic of Dengue fever emerged between 1963 and 1964 in Kolkata and in the eastern coast of India. Dengue fever cases were on the rise in various countries in 2020, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Cook Islands, Ecuador, Fiji, Kenya, and India. Despite the fact that global healthcare and management were under severe strain, the WHO underlined the need of avoiding, identifying, and diagnosing vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever and malaria.
“Because the outbreak occurs in congested regions with inadequate sanitation and lower socioeconomic strata, we need to prevent mosquito breeding locations to stop the virus from spreading. Water accumulation leads to dengue, so controlling mosquito breeding areas and the land fillings are significant steps. In a populous country like India, a huge financial capability is required to carry out to prevent the disease. Scientifically, there is no specific treatment of dengue available yet,” Dr Debayan Mallik, in-charge of the rural health centre of the JIMS hospital, Kolkata, told this newspaper.
While looking into the gap, he said, “Several diseases, such as dengue and malaria, are often overlooked; dengue fever is most prevalent in September and October, but no one has taken any precautions in advance. We’re now attempting to limit the spread. We know that our country is endemic to dengue, so we need to be concerned and look at the disease as it is not going to be eliminated anytime soon.”
Also, several vaccines to prevent dengue are under trial. There are four serotypes of dengue viruses. “Since different dengue viruses have different morphologies, the vaccine approved for one serotype may not be applicable for another serotype, so it is difficult to prepare the vaccine. There are several time-tested vaccines in each country, which may provide minimal protection, but again, we do not have any vaccine that will protect against all the dengue viruses,” said Dr Mitesh Patel from the Government Eye Hospital, Civil Hospital Campus, Ahmedabad.
Dr Mallik added, “The vaccines that are approved in the western countries are suitable for their geography, but it may not be necessary that the vaccines will give the positive results in our country because the severity of dengue is not spread evenly in India. A few zones in India are hotspots, so the vaccines are still under consideration by the ICMR. Hopefully, by the next one or two years, we will find a vaccine and get it implemented as per our national immunization schedule. The makers of the vaccine need to follow some strict protocols, which determines that vaccines that are to be used in India must also be tested amongst the Indian population.” Currently, none of the pharmaceutical companies in India has approved any vaccines.
Dr Patel said that most people are infected by the primary dengue fever with a minimal mortality rate. In severe dengue fever, people develop life-threatening complications that may result in death. He puts emphasis on heavy intake of fluids once the patient recovers from the dengue fever. In Delhi, the state government has started a massive fogging drive to check mosquito breeding but the virus is still prevalent in several nooks and corners of the state.
“People are aware of dengue but are not ready to implement the knowledge of preventing the disease. For instance, we know that water-logging is one of the major reasons, but we still allow the potholes at our places filled and clogged with water; similarly, the drainage system of our country needs to be improved. Maintaining social hygiene, along with the community or social participation aiming to prevent the spread of dengue will go a long way,” Dr Mallik said.