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Dengue In Mumbai: This Time It Is Deadlier Than Ever Before

The mosquito menace has most commonly been associated with malaria, but in recent years there has been a dramatic rise in outbreaks of other mosquito borne illnesses like dengue and chickungunya. This year, Mumbai is in the grips of one of its worst ever outbreaks of dengue – in the first two weeks of September alone, there have already been 122 reported cases. In comparison, last year the BMC recorded 248 confirmed cases in the entire month. Health care experts believe that the actual toll of dengue this year is a lot higher, as most official records are based only on confirmed cases from public hospitals and dispensaries.

How Deadly is Dengue in Mumbai 2016

“In addition to the 122 reported cases this month, 1,513 people are said to be suffering from dengue, including 10 resident doctors from KEM”

City doctors are concerned about the rising incidence of dengue in Mumbai, with the first reported dengue-related fatality on Wednesday. In addition to the 122 reported cases, 1,513 people are said to be suffering from the infection. This follows the trends in recent years, which showed a doubling of dengue cases from 2014 to 2015. Dr Sushila Kataria’s (Division of Internal Medicine, Medanta the Medicity) words of warning in conversation with TOI earlier this year sound almost prophetic now, “We are expecting at least a 25 per cent hike in its incidence than the previous year.” According to a BMC health report from August, there were 994 suspected dengue cases in the first three weeks of the last month. In KEM hospital itself, 10 resident doctors were struck with dengue in just the first week of September.

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Symptoms Of Dengue

Dengue is worrying because the symptoms are often confused with viral infections that are also prevalent at this time of the year. This makes diagnosis difficult and it also means that many patients delay seeking treatment. Initial symptoms vary greatly from mild to high fevers, fatigue, headaches, ocular pain, body aches, and rashes. While treatment can be effective if detected promptly, neglecting the condition can lead to a potentially fatal complication called dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Why Is Dengue Spreading So Rapidly In Mumbai?

“The civic body’s insecticide department that is responsible for inspection and fumigation of premises reported a shocking increase in breeding sites across Mumbai from 304 to 3,872 this year”

Doctors across the city have been pointing to the inadequacy of BMC’s efforts to contain infection by destroying breeding sites, coupled with a lack of awareness among the city’s population. While most of us are aware of the risks of mosquito borne infections, awareness about breeding conditions and risk factors remains poor. Not surprisingly, the civic body’s insecticide department that is responsible for inspection and fumigation of premises reported a shocking increase in breeding sites across Mumbai from 304 to 3,872 this year. If you work or live in Andheri East, you should be particularly cautious, as the highest concentration of such breeding sites was found to be in this area.

“Of the 3,872 recorded breeding sites this year, only 501 were within slum areas, while the remainder was found in private residential societies”

Breeding sites for mosquitoes don’t just include open drains or nullahs, but can also include areas within households, which is why public awareness is so important. The aedes mosquito which is responsible for dengue has been found to breed in objects like flower pots, tarpaulin sheets, water drums, unused tires, and cycle baskets that tend to hold water. If you think this is a problem with urban slum areas, you’d be dead wrong. Of the 3,872 recorded breeding sites this year, only 501 were within slum areas, while the remainder was found in private residential societies. All of these factors have contributed to the rise in dengue cases in Mumbai. The BMC’s ability to tackle the problem is limited because of the scale of the outbreak, but increased public awareness could have a greater impact on dengue prevention than any government initiative.

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While dengue is certainly a cause for concern this year, there has been one positive development and that is a decline in the incidence of malaria. Nevertheless, other monsoon infections still remain problematic and there is need for more civic participation and awareness in disease prevention activities.

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September 19, 2016

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