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Mosquitoes of pestilence

This year, the national capital is likely to see a bigger outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases than the one witnessed last year. Rhythma Kaul reports. High risk | the dengue mosquito | Curbing mosquito breeding

delhi Updated: Jul 12, 2011 02:05 IST
Rhythma Kaul

This year, the national capital is likely to see a bigger outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases than the one witnessed last year.

Dengue cases have already doubled and malaria cases have gone up by three times over last year's high, indicates data from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), the two agencies responsible for controlling mosquito breeding and spread of vector-borne diseases.

This year, the city has already recorded five dengue and 40 malaria cases as against one dengue and 12 malaria cases in the corresponding period last year.

The severity of the outbreak can be judged from the fact that last year the first dengue case was reported in June, however, this year, the first such case was reported in March. In 2010, eight out of the 6,259 people who'd got infected by dengue had died.

Chikungunya affected 41, with the infection's transmission happening locally, unlike in the past where the only cases reported were in people who were infected during their travels to south India, where the disease has become endemic over the past few years. Last year, only one of the 41 infected people in Delhi had traveled to southern.

Despite sporadic cases being reported, the state government and the civic agencies have done little else than organize awareness campaigns. "Last year, fears of an outbreak during the Commonwealth Games prompted the MCD to be pretty regular with door-to-door checks and fumigation, but this year, there's been no spraying so far in our neighbourhood," said Namrata Bhardwaj, resident of south Delhi 's New Friends Colony.

Open, stagnant drains and construction sites which allow rainwater to collect are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. "There are quite a few such drains in and around our neighbourhood, and you can spot hundreds of mosquitoes there at all times of the day. Isn't it the responsibility of the civic body to keep them clean?" said Manju Kumar, who lives in Sector-2, Dwarka.

Meanwhile, the state health department and MCD are at loggerheads on how to control the monsoon outbreaks.

While health minister AK Walia wants more biological methods - such as chemical sprays - to control mosquito breeding, the MCD has decided to do away with fumigation, citing health concerns.

So far, 1,48,567 houses were sprayed with larvicides till the first week of July, this year, compared with 1,59,289 houses last year. Incidentally, the use of biolarvicides, a safer option to kill mosquito larvae, was stopped for several weeks in May because the MCD ran out of stock.

At the same time, the number of people fined for allowing mosquitoes to breed has also dropped to 452 this year, compared to 1,055 people last year. MCD officials claim this is because they want to spread awareness and not punish people.

"This year, breeding and infection is more widespread, but we have not prosecuted many people because merely punishing people does not serve our purpose. We want people to be aware so that they themselves are cautious about cleanliness and hygiene, which will help us control the threat," said Dr VK Monga, chairman, medical relief and public health, MCD.

Workplaces are the primary focus area of the civic authorities this year. An analysis of last year's dengue data shows that 60% of the affected people were between the ages of 15 years and 45 years, of which 65% were men. Of these, more than 50% people were infected either in schools, colleges or their offices. "Since dengue-causing mosquito is a day-biting mosquito, we are concentrating more on commercial premises this time," said Monga.

Ironically, the country's premier hospital, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (Aiims), is a major area of concern as it tops mosquito-breeding charts each year. This year's first dengue case was also reported from Aiims.

"With unsanitary and unhygienic conditions, the hostels have become a place for the spread of not only vector-borne, but water-borne diseases, too," said a junior resident doctor, who stays at RPC hostel.

Nearly 50 doctors and their family members at the hospital had suffered from dengue, and more than 10 cases of chikungunya were reported last year.

A glass full of deadly water | High risk| the dengue mosquito | Curbing mosquito breeding