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Suspected dengue fever leads to 2,000 hospitalisations in Mumbai after monsoon

A flooded street in Mumbai during the monsoon. Image credit: Lakun.patra [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]
Almost 2,000 Mumbai residents were hospitalised with suspected dengue fever in the beginning of October, amidst the withdrawal of monsoon rains. 

The first fifteen days of October marked a slight spike in cases of suspected dengue fever compared to the same period in September. In total, 1,970 suspected dengue fever cases have been reported in October compared to 1,536 suspected cases reported in September. 

As well as the suspected dengue fever cases, civic hospitals in the city have reported 175 cases of gastroenteritis, three cases of H1N1; 45 cases of hepatitis; eighteen cases of leptospirosis; and 240 cases of malaria. “Whenever there is a sudden change in the environment, micro-organisms get a suitable ground to reproduce,” said infectious diseases expert Dr Om Shrivastava. However, disease cases are expected to gradually decrease in prevalence in the city with the recession of the monsoon rains. 

Rainfall during this year’s monsoon season reached a 25-year high, with many states gripped by extreme rainfall even after the monsoon’s official end. 2019 has seen Mumbai ravaged by severe weather events and outbreaks of infectious diseases such as dengue fever. Earlier this year, the city witnessed its worst flooding in more than a decade, with some quarters of the metropolis receiving their highest rainfall in July in 45 years. 

Environmental health operator fogging using chemical for dengue control outbreak with sunlight effect.
Fogging to prevent cases of dengue fever.

Against the backdrop of an increasingly volatile climate, Mumbai is seeing dengue rises become the new normal. Cases increased by 98 percent between the 2013-14 and 2017-18 periods. 

The problem is not isolated to Mumbai, or even to Maharashtra. States including Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, and Rajasthan and union territories including Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu have been hit by intense rainfall and floods. With the end of the monsoon season, vigilance against vector-borne and water-borne diseases is much-needed, including suspected dengue cases. 

“Through different means, we are trying to raise awareness among people about the symptoms [of dengue],” said Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health officer at the city’s public health department. “We are doing daily disease surveillance, which is helping to diagnose patients at an early stage of the disease.”

Meanwhile, anyone with symptoms correlative with suspected dengue fever are being encouraged to seek medical attention at the earliest. “People need to see a doctor immediately, as the symptoms are quite similar…those of dengue, malaria, leptospirosis and chikungunya,” said Dr Shrivastava. “They should take medication as prescribed by the doctor and not attempt any home remedies.”

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