The mosquito-borne dengue disease continued to take its toll across India on Thursday with over 40 people reported dead and nearly 3,000 suffering from it even as the government maintained the situation did not merit an epidemic status.
Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said: "The situation is not that of an epidemic and we expect that the number of dengue cases will see a decreasing trend in the next two-three days."
"So far we have recorded 2,900 cases of dengue from across the country. I would like to say that in spite of the above numbers, the situation is under control. We are not complacent and the situation is a matter of concern to the government.
He also briefed the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, three of whose family members are feared to have been affected by dengue, on the steps taken to contain the disease.
"There is absolutely no need for panic," Information and Broadcasting Minister PR Dasmunsi said after the cabinet meeting in New Delhi.
Dengue is caused by the bite of Aedes Aegypti, a type of mosquito, that breeds in stagnant water.
The dengue outbreak usually erupts as the annual monsoon tapers off across the country, leaving behind countless small pools and puddles of stagnant water.
The worst affected by the dengue virus is the capital where one more patient died, taking the death toll to 17 even as over 50 fresh cases were reported on Thursday.
Laxmi Narayan, 55, a resident of Bulandshahar in Uttar Pradesh, was the latest victim of dengue at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the country's top public hospital.
"Narayan was admitted to the hospital on Thursday morning in a serious condition but he succumbed to the ailment at around 2 pm," said AIIMS medical superintendent DK Sharma.
"Till forenoon (Thursday) we have recorded 16 deaths and one more person has died at AIIMS this afternoon," said NK Yadav, chief municipal officer of Delhi.
According to health officials, the number of dengue patients could go up further as the data compilation of all hospitals in the city had yet to be completed.
Two grandsons of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—Rohan (11) and Madhav (17)—were being treated at AIIMS for "suspected" dengue symptoms.
Manmohan Singh's eldest son-in-law Vijay Tankha, a professor at St Stephens College in New Delhi, has also been admitted to the hospital for similar symptoms.
AIIMS doctors said the prime minister's family members were recovering well.
"We are conducting blood tests every six hours. We suspect dengue. But the final results will be known only on Friday evening," said a doctor.
Acting on a petition, Delhi High Court on Thursday sought explanations from the central and Delhi governments as well as the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) on their failure to deal with the outbreak of dengue in the capital.
Taking note of the dengue toll in Delhi, many states have sounded an alert.
In Bihar, the total number of dengue cases rose to 12 on Thursday with five cases reported from Bettiah and Saran districts.
In Haryana and Punjab, the number of suspected cases of dengue was on the rise even as health authorities on Thursday said that the situation was not alarming.
Veena Chug, Haryana's director of health services (malaria), said there were 42 confirmed cases of dengue in the state, nearly half of them from Faridabad district adjoining Delhi.
She said that it was not confirmed if a death in Faridabad was due to dengue.
The government on Thursday set up a testing laboratory in Panchkula town adjoining state capital Chandigarh as six to seven suspected dengue cases were reported from Panchkula district during the last two days.
In Punjab, the number of suspected dengue cases in various places was well over 150, with nearly 90 of them in the industrial hub Ludhiana itself.
Punjab's Health and Family Welfare Director Sukhdev Singh said that no death had been reported in the state due to dengue.
A dozen patients from Punjab and Haryana have so far come to hospitals in Chandigarh for treatment.
Doctors in Himachal Pradesh were on alert after the first case of dengue was detected in the hill state late on Wednesday.
The Bihar government decided to set up a dengue detection centre at the Patna airport as well as at all railway stations in the state capital.
"Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is monitoring the situation and has asked top officials to take urgent steps to prevent the spread of the disease," an official said. The state government sounded a dengue alert on Wednesday.
The dengue patients in Patna include two doctors, Abhijit Singh and Jyoti Ranjan.
The viral disease was spreading in Madhya Pradesh since Bhopal district reported the first dengue death on September 29. The deceased, Kishore Singh Thakur of Bina district, was brought to Bhopal for treatment on September 12.
Moreover, chikungunya, a relatively rare form of mosquito-transmitted viral fever, has already assumed epidemic proportions in Madhya Pradesh with about 30 people dead and over 200,000 estimated to be infected in more than half a dozen districts, health department officials said.
In Karnataka, the Health and Family Welfare Department intensified surveillance in capital Bangalore and select districts to prevent the outbreak of dengue fever and chikungunya.
"The situation in Karnataka is under control. We have stepped up anti-mosquito and anti-larva measures in susceptible areas to prevent dengue. Extensive fumigation and spraying of chemicals have contained the spread of chikungunya," HC Ramesh, joint director for malaria and falaria said.
Though the health and civic authorities have managed to bring chikungunya under control, with less than 1,000 cases being reported a week across the state, dengue has claimed four lives out of 59 cases reported this year.
The neighbouring Andhra Pradesh has recorded no dengue cases this season, but authorities were on alert to prevent any outbreak.
"The state government is totally equipped to tackle dengue," said Venkateswara Rao, director of health services.
Taking note of the rising cases of dengue and chikungunya, the Orissa government on Thursday instructed all district health officials to remain alert.
While several people developed symptoms similar to the diseases, none of them have been confirmed for dengue or chikungunya yet, said PK Choudhuti, the state's joint director of health (malaria and falaria).
According to PL Joshi, director of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, last year 157 people had died and 11,985 were affected by dengue.