The Covid-19 pandemic has, to some extent, taken the focus off other major diseases this year. But with the monsoon showing renewed vigour in August, state health authorities are stepping up surveillance of dengue fever cases, which usually peak between July and September.
Interestingly, the lockdown and precautions taken to prevent Covid-19 cases, along with absence of water scarcity during the summer months of April to May, seem to have resulted in fewer dengue cases this year as compared to 2019. While last year, 14,888 cases of dengue and 49 deaths were reported, this year, from January till July, only 1,499 cases of dengue and two deaths have been reported in Maharashtra.
This year, state authorities have allocated approximately Rs 1 crore to recruit additional manpower at 11 municipal corporations, which have seen the highest number of dengue cases in the last couple of years. According to Dr Mahendra Jagtap, state entomologist, the 11 municipal corporations which usually report a high number of dengue cases are Kolhapur, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad, Nashik, Thane, Nagpur, Sangli, Aurangabad, Chandrapur, Amravati and Solapur.
.“The most important vector of the dengue virus is the mosquito Aedes Aegypti and entomological surveillance helps us determine the changes in the geographical distribution and density of the vector,” Dr Pradeep Awate, state epidemiologist, told The Indian Express.
Last year, Pune district had reported 2,692 cases of dengue and 12 deaths, while there were 898 cases of chikungunya. This year, so far, there have been 79 cases of dengue and 67 cases of chikungunya in Pune district.
Data from the Pune Municipal Corporation’s health department shows that from March till June, Pune city didn’t even see a suspected case of dengue. However, in January, there were 98 suspected cases ,of which three were positive for dengue fever, while in February there were 25 suspected cases of dengue, of which four were confirmed positive. In July this year, there were 153 suspected cases, but none tested positive for dengue. Overall,from January till July, of the 276 suspected cases of dengue in PMC areas, a total of seven tested positive.
Mumbai had reported 917 cases of dengue and three deaths last year while this year, till June, only 49 cases have been reported. Kolhapur had reported the maximum number of cases last year, with 1,940 cases of dengue and nine deaths, and another 238 cases of chikungunya. “This year, a total of 348 cases of dengue and 156 cases of chikungunya have been reported in Kolhapur,” said Dr Jagtap.
Dr Rajesh Gadia, consulting physician at KEM Hospital, said that since the last two weeks, he had treated five cases of dengue in Pune and one from Kolhapur.
“This year, there have been fewer dengue cases, but we will have to wait and watch as the cases usually peak during August and September. Due to Covid-19, patients with other ailments prefer not to get admitted to the hospital and there have been some cases which were managed at home,” said Dr Gadia.
Dr Awate agreed that compared to last year, there has been a sizable drop in the number of dengue cases. “We are entering the dengue transmission period now and usually, there is a surge of cases from July till October. If there is a water scarcity, then cases are also reported in April and May, but that did not happen this year,” said Dr Awate.
Health officials at the Pune Municipal Corporation admitted that as health personnel were engaged in tackling the pandemic, active surveillance activity for some other diseases had been impacted. “By and large, patients have been scared to report to hospitals and priority for checking on fever cases in containment zones has been mainly for Covid-19. Health officials are overburdened… daily and weekly reporting of dengue fever cases from tehsils and districts to the state has been delayed,” said a senior official.
Fewer H1N1 virus (swine flu) cases
There has been a drop in the total number of H1N1 virus (swine flu ) cases this year, said Dr Awate. As against a total of 2,287 cases of H1N1 virus and 246 deaths across Maharashtra last year, this year, till date, there have been three deaths and a total of 119 cases.
Dr M S Chadha, former scientist with the National Institute of Virology, said it was possible that because people have been taking precautionary measures against coronavirus disease, it has helped bring down the number of cases of swine flu.
State reports 12 outbreaks of water-borne diseases
There have been 12 outbreaks of water-borne diseases this year, including two of gastroenteritis, nine of diarrhoea and one of viral hepatitis. Four outbreaks were reported at Kolhapur, while some other districts such as Ratnagiri, Amravati, Sindhudurg, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar, Parbhani and Satara were also affected, said Dr Awate.
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