25 March 2012
By Rito Paul
It was a matter of pride for the government of Maharashtra that it had managed to substantially curb malaria cases over the last year. In a strange turn of events, while the number of malaria cases has been halved over the last year, the numbers of dengue cases have almost doubled. The deaths caused by dengue have risen four–fold as well. The strange part in this sudden increase is that the measures taken to restrict dengue infections are the same as the ones taken to curb malaria.
According to figures included in the Economic Survey of Maharashtra 2011–12, the number of dengue cases for the year 2011–12 (up to Jan 2012) has been the highest over the last 5 years. In that period, 7,898 cases of dengue were recorded, as opposed to 3,746 cases the year before. The deaths caused by dengue have risen from six cases in 2010–11 to 25 cases in 2011–12.
Dengue, like malaria, is mainly caused by mosquitoes, but by a different kind. Dengue is caused by the aedes aegypti mosquito that also spreads Chikunguniya and Yellow fever. While there are readily available antibiotics to treat malaria, dengue has no direct medicine. “Malaria is caused by the plasmodium parasite.
Dengue is a virus so antibiotics are useless against it. As doctors we try to take care of the complications caused by dengue, like infusing the patient with platelets when the platelet count falls. Other than that dengue is a self–limiting disease,” says Dr Anil Ballani, consultant physician with Lilavati and PD Hinduja hospitals.
The complications caused by dengue include severe fever and headaches, muscle and joint pain, vomiting as well as a measles–like rash in the upper torso and chest. According to Dr Arun Bamane, pest control officer of the BMC, defeating the scourge of dengue has to be a collaborative effort. “Stagnant water collecting in everyday items such as the dish of a flowerpot, coconut shells and other containers are potential breeding grounds for the dengue–spreading mosquito.
The government is taking steps to ensure that dengue cases are brought under control, but it can’t work alone. Everybody should keep their surroundings clean and devoid of stagnant water. Also if one gets a severe headache they should immediately approach a doctor. Only by following these measures can this problem be solved,” he says.