The failure of civic authorities to contain the spread of dengue in Delhi is as routine as the disease’s outbreak. Virology tests in 2003 had established that the dengue virus is endemic to Delhi. That means that the virus is highly likely to breed with the onset of monsoon in August up to November, peaking in October. Logically, it should also mean that an alert-monitor-control system manned by civic authorities — in this case, the MCD and NDMC — should swing into action every monsoon and continue fumigation and other control activities till the onset of winter, when the threat dissipates. This year, about 1,000 people have reported dengue-like symptoms to date, with 448 cases confirmed and 11 deaths. Delhi faces dengue outbreaks almost every year, the worst epidemic being the one in 1996, when 8,900 cases were reported.
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit decided not to declare the outbreak as an epidemic, while the MCD has issued notices to several hospitals. Health officials are conducting door-to-door checks, albeit two months too late. Union Health Minister A. Ramadoss has announced an emergency meeting on October 10 to focus on why AIIMS failed to heed alert notices. This PR approach in dealing with the outbreak does little to counter the virus’ spread.
The people in the capital will be better served if the outbreak of the disease, which brings with it no surprises, is attacked before it can spread its wings via the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is its carrier. The solution is obvious — preemptive government and municipal activity, including checks and punitive action against defaulters. In blaming the government, the people tend to forget their own responsibility in preventing the breeding of mosquitoes in coolers, uncovered overhead tanks and other such places within our homes, schools, offices, places of worship and recreation. But where the civic authorities and the Health Ministries appallingly fail every year is in waking up in time to address a basic health issue — with no accountability at any level of governance, citizens can end up paying with their lives.