September 26, 2016 11:20:26 am
LAST MONTH, when the city started witnessing dengue cases, the UT health department had not expected to see such a steep rise. Now the city is recording around 20 fresh cases everyday, taking the total number of cases to 238 so far this year. Experts predict the numbers to increase in the coming days.
The number of dengue cases reported last year was 966. Before that, the number was: 73 in 2011; 351 in 2012; 107 in 2013; and 13 in 2014. This year there are 20 chikungunya and 92 malaria cases in the city as well.
Dr Gaurav Aggarwal, anti-malaria officer, who is managing the affairs along with 180 workers on the ground, claims that this year, the department has finished house-to-house inspection thrice while another round is on.
While the department says the number of dengue cases was more than 300 last year in September, the records of Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) — disease surveillance department managed by the Union Health Ministry — put the figure at not more than 150 last year.
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The efforts of the department to prevent the vector-borne diseases had started as early as in February when special envelopes were released in a bid to create awareness among the public regarding the swine flu, malaria and dengue. It was followed in June and July by massive “awareness drives” in which the department said that 2.5 lakh houses were inspected. The department then said “a strategy has been designed so that there is no outbreak of water-borne and vector-borne disease in the city”. Help of the fisheries department to use gambusia fishes in large numbers to eliminate the larvae was sought.
Despite all these efforts, the situation doesn’t seem to be better than the last year, as the department has so far failed to bring down the number of dengue cases in the city.
“If the cases are coming in large numbers and more than the last year, it means that the system is not working well and there is some lacuna in the surveillance. The vector-borne diseases can be prevented, if you have an effective system in place,” says J S Thakur, School of Public Health, PGI.
The health department, however, has a different version. “The difference between last year and this year is that we are getting scattered cases this time. Clustering was there during last year,” says Dr Aggarwal.
For the department, Aggarwal says, the problem is that larvae have been found inside the houses — mostly from coolers. “Cases are coming from the peripheries and the areas which are located on the borders,” he says, claiming because of the efforts of the health department, no death has been reported from the city so far.
The experts, however, said the department efforts alone can’t solve the problem. “The residents have to play a role. The department may inspect a house and then get the surroundings clean. But it is the responsibility of that house owner to ensure that the same thing continues,” says Dr P V M Lakshmi, additional professor, Department of Community Medicine, PGI.
Thakur believes that there is a need for integrated vector-borne diseases in the city that can be implemented even before the season. “There are no boundaries for mosquitoes, and we have three cities located close to each other. So you need a joint strategy,” he says.
Recently, Prof Thakur adds, he attended a meeting of the health officials and the “efforts which the department claimed they are taking on the ground are satisfactory”.
THE sudden steep rise in dengue cases in the city has triggered panic. The dengue cases have witnessed a massive increase in September. As a result, hospitals are flooded with patients and one of the city government hospitals — Government Multi-Specialty Hospital — had to put off planned surgeries on hold in view of the large number of cases.
This year, the first few dengue cases were reported in August. Initially, the numbers were not revealed by the health department. On September 11, when it was reported that the number of cases is much higher than what was claimed by the authorities, the embarrassed health department issued a statement claiming that the number of cases is 100 in the city. Today, the city is witnessing around 20 new cases a day.
“It (not revealing numbers) shouldn’t happen as it can lead to panic among people,” says Prof Thakur. “We should encourage our workers to report the dengue cases. Nothing will be achieved if we hide the numbers. In any communicable disease, reporting of disease is a must.”
As if dengue were not enough, the city recorded first chikungunya case this year. “I have not heard the city recording any chikungunya case in the past. For us, the worry is that people travel from other states to the city and the risk increases,” says Dr Aggarwal. The number of chikungunya cases in the city is more than 20.
The Federation of Sector Welfare Associations Chandigarh (FOSWAC) which controls more than 70 RWAs blames the health department for the situation and the panic.
“Few months ago, a meeting was held between FOSWAC and health department. It was a formality. No follow-up was done. We are ensuring cleanliness at our level in sectors,” says FOSWAC chairman Baljinder Singh Bittu.
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