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Season of infections

Although it is usually not considered fatal, hundreds of deaths were linked to chikungunya on Reunion island last year.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2006 02:35 IST

The woes list of Delhiites seems to have gotten longer. Joining the weather, terrorism and prices is the dengue-chikungunya spreading mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which is reportedly multiplying in abnormally large numbers. So much so that people in the capital may have to batten down the hatches if the latest outbreak of viral fever does turn out to be chikungunya - a rare type of viral disease caused by an alphavirus, which is transmitted by the aggressive Aedes aegypti. Although it is usually not considered fatal, hundreds deaths were linked to chikungunya on Réunion island last year. With these fatalities coinciding with a widespread outbreak of the disease in India - especially in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra - it was natural for people on the subcontinent to be on edge as they braced themselves for a pandemic.

The increasing number of chikungunya cases reported from the islands of Mayotte, Mauritius and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, of course, seems to have added to the concern. Which is just as well since there's no known treatment for the disease. If the illness has at all an upside, it is its self-limiting nature that apparently resolves with time, and that unlike, say, dengue fever, doesn't include bleeding as a symptom.

With chikungunya clearly overshadowing both malaria and dengue as the epidemic of this season, health officials must do more to make the public aware of the disease and ensure community participation in taking preventive measures. Fogging and larvicide spraying, for instance, can bring down mosquito breeding and public health officials should chalk out special plans for intensive monitoring and spraying of domestic water collection sources in rural areas and urban centres.