What happened in Telangana in the first ten days of September that led to a huge spike in number of dengue cases? That is the question that has flummoxed the Telangana Health ministry and will be the subject of a detailed investigation. Off the record, a senior official of the Health ministry admits the municipal authorities messed up with the vector control measures.
Figures available with Filter Kaapi from the Department of Health reveal that 780 cases of dengue were reported in August 2019. That should ideally have been a cause for alarm given that the corresponding figure for August 2018 was 529 cases. But the health department remained complacent, pointing out that other states like Bengal and Maharashtra are doing worse than Telangana.
September witnessed a dramatic jump – close to 300 per cent when compared with August – and the first eleven days have recorded 2319 cases of dengue. Compare this with 411 cases from September 1 to 11 last year. It clearly had to do with slack in maintaining hygiene and sanitation in and around dwellings.
The mistake Telangana made was not to realise that compared to last year, 2019 was witnessing bigger numbers. It first planted news in select media, claiming the numbers were in fact less than last two years. Now the same ministry admits that barring February, every month since January 2019 has seen far more cases of dengue reported than last year. The table tells you the complete picture.
This means compared to last year when 1610 cases were reported, this year 4526 cases have been reported so far. That is a 300 per cent jump.
The Health ministry says this could be because private hospitals are reporting cases this year more efficiently than last year. It also maintains that the intensity of the dengue virus is lesser this time. There is also a reluctance to accept the 56 deaths that have been reported from different private and government hospitals due to dengue.
“We have formed a committee. Only when that committee certifies that it is a death due to dengue, we will accept it as a dengue death,” says E Rajender, Health minister of Telangana who has gone on record to say there have been no deaths due to dengue. This even when hospitals have issued death certificates citing the reason of demise.
With the municipal administration authorities belatedly realising that the mosquito is still very much at war, it has intensified fogging, spraying and awareness drives through social media. What the battle against dengue needs is a Pulse Polio like round-the-year campaign, make it part of the sanitation ecosystem where every citizen knows the ABC of ensuring against disease.
Ensuring there is no water logging and reckless throwing of garbage should occupy the mindspace of every citizen and sanitation worker. Given that a female mosquito is known to lay about 1000 eggs in a lifespan of 7 to 10 days, the fight to control dengue or malaria is by no means easy.