The Aam Aadmi Party government announced on Tuesday every road in the national capital would be fogged to get rid of mosquitoes, the vector responsible for a three-pronged outbreak of dengue, chikungunya and malaria in the city.
The fight against mosquitoes will now see fogging on all roads and byroads every alternate day for the next one month.
“Keeping in mind the dengue, malaria and chikungunya crisis, the Delhi government has launched a campaign to make Delhi mosquito-free,” deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said, after chief minister Arvind Kejriwal declared a “war” on mosquitoes.
The announcement came on a day the Delhi high court directed the Centre and city government to step up efforts to tackle the outbreak, suggesting measures such as deploying retired personnel to increase the number of doctors, nurses and other hospital staff.
It asked government-run hospitals not to deny treatment or admission to patients, and directed civic authorities to visit houses, particularly slums, with fogging machines and spray insecticides.
The AAP government’s push for a determined fogging exercise capped days of denial over the scale of the crisis despite hospitals struggling to cope with the growing number of patients.
The city recorded over the past month more than 4,000 cases of mosquito-borne diseases, with 15 chikungunya-related deaths, though officially no one has died of the condition. Dengue has claimed four people on official records till September 17, while the unofficial count is 20.
Hundreds of cases of chikungunya, the illness that causes high fever and joint pain, are being unreported because most patients avoid the test to confirm the disease once the fever subsides in four or five days. The test can detect anti-bodies in about a week since the fever sets in.
“Although fogging and sanitation are the responsibility of the MCDs (civic agencies), we now understand that there is a crisis. And since people have complained that fogging hasn’t happened, so this will supplement the efforts of the MCDs and increase its band-width,” Sisodia said.
The move is viewed as an attempt to not only kill the Aedes aegypti and Anopheles mosquitoes — carriers of dengue and chikungunya viruses and the malaria parasite — but also silence mounting criticism against the AAP government, which has been accused of passing the blame on the BJP-ruled municipal corporations.
The health crisis has sparked a political row over who is to blame for failing to properly prepare for the outbreak.
“We do not wish to get into why the primary duty of prevention of vector-borne diseases and cleaning of garbage did not happen despite all funds having been released before time and repeated meetings,” Sisodia said.
The Delhi government will acquire 600 fogging machines on contract.
“The fogging will continue for one month, till the end of October. The machines will work day and night in every ward, every lane,” Sisodia said.
People can ring up 1266 (North and South MCD), 155303 (East MCD) and 23340108 (NDMC) to make fogging requests for their localities.
Doctors were not convinced that fogging can stop mosquito breeding, which is most active during the monsoon season from June to September. The chemicals used in the smoke during fogging kill adult mosquitoes, but extensive anti-larvae measures are needed to weed out a population.
Besides, sustained exposure in high doses to chemicals such as melathion and cyphenothrin can cause skin and eye irritation, and headache.
“Fogging every week or 10 days is fine, but doing it on alternate days will aggravate allergies and chronic respiratory problems like asthma,” said Dr Vikas Maurya, senior pulmonologist at BL Kapur Super Specialty Hospital.
People are advised to cover their face with an anti-pollution mask or wet cloth during exposure to smoke from fogging.