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Dengue fever outbreak continues to spread

Still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s already overburdened health system is now grappling with one of the worst Dengue fever outbreaks in recent years.

Dengue outbreak in Kerala: 18199389 - anopheles mosquito main cause of maleria and dengue in india. Copyright: signout / 123RF Stock Photo
The anopheles mosquito — primary vector of dengue fever.

Since the beginning of the Dengue outbreak in late August in Firozabad city in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh there have been 116,991 cases nationally. According to The Telegraph “Uttar Pradesh has reported 23,128 cases of dengue this year, its highest toll since 2016. However, several officials said they suspect Uttar Pradesh is underreporting its cases due to limited testing and poor surveillance.”

In India, Dengue fever is endemic across all 35 states and union territories. Dengue is most commonly spread via the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus varieties of mosquito, which can form breeding populations anywhere with stagnant water. As such, the disease is most prevalent during and after the monsoon season in India when stagnant water is abundant.

Both rural and urban environments are at risk from dengue fever. Urban environments in particular host ample opportunities for stagnant water to be collected in artificial containers or on rooftops. This means huge numbers of people are potentially at risk of contracting the disease. As previously noted on Health Issues India 

“Many people show no symptoms at all when they contract dengue fever. For those that do, symptoms often mirror those of the flu. A high fever is common. Headaches as well as muscle and joint pains may also occur and a rash may develop near the bite. These symptoms usually present themselves within four to ten days of infection.

Between one and five percent of cases develop into a more severe form of the disease. Those most at risk of this are those already in weakened states due to other diseases, children and the elderly – heightening the need for prevention measures to be taken by these groups. The severe form of dengue is caused by a critical drop in blood pressure and is potentially fatal.”

The outbreak has continued to spread across the country, with Delhi recently reporting a surge in cases. India’s COVID-19 caseload has reduced substantially, and many hospitals are reportedly repurposing COVID-19 beds to treat the influx of Dengue fever patients. “The number of COVID patients has decreased tremendously and we only have a few patients but now we are getting dengue patients,” said Dr Ritu Saxena, LNJP Hospital’s deputy medical superintendent.

COVID-19 underlines how unprepared India’s health system is in dealing with a rapid influx of patients. Several outbreaks since — the most recent of which being Zika virus and the Dengue fever outbreak — have continued to illustrate the issue.

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