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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Amid Covid, testing for malaria & dengue takes a back seat

Dr Dilip Patil, State Immunization Officer, attributed the decline in testing for malaria and dengue to the state’s emphasis on tackling Covid and shortage of staff to conduct tests.

Mumbai |
October 22, 2021 12:21:04 am
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Dengue is spread by several species of female mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, principally Aedes aegypti. (File)

Written by RUPSA CHAKRABORTY

AMID THE ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the testing of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue has taken a back seat.

In 2019, a total of 1.72 crore samples were tested for malaria and 4.63 lakh for dengue. In 2020, the testing numbers for malaria fell to 1.14 crore and for dengue, it was 1.71 lakh. This year as of August, the total number of tests for malaria stood at 86.39 lakh and 1.73 lakh for dengue.

In 2019, 4,072 and 2,064 patients were diagnosed with malaria and dengue respectively in the state, which increased to 12,909 and 3,353 in 2020. In 2021, as of October 13, the state has reported 10,866 cases of malaria and 8,972 cases of dengue.

Dr Dilip Patil, State Immunization Officer, attributed the decline in testing for malaria and dengue to the state’s emphasis on tackling Covid and shortage of staff to conduct tests.

Commenting on the decline in testing, Dr Mangala Gomare, Executive Health Officer of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that due to the lockdown many patients couldn’t reach hospitals to get tested. “Compared to last year, we have increased testing this year. This is also being reflected in the recent rise of cases,” she said.

Medical experts have warned that a drop in testing will hinder the government’s years of hard work to curb cases of mosquito-borne diseases. As the novel coronavirus has similar symptoms to dengue and malaria, doctors might miss identifying Covid-19 co-infections, experts warned.

Dr T Jacob John, Virologist and retired professor at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, said the manpower crunch in the public health has led to the ignorance of non-Covid diseases amid the pandemic. “India has already recorded lakhs of ‘excess deaths’ as the public health departments ignored treatment for malaria, dengue cancer, tuberculosis among others. It has been over 18 months since the outbreak of the pandemic so, it is high time the health departments start paying more importance to non-Covid ailments,” he added.

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