India needs a dengue target..

EPW edit has a piece on dengue malaise in India.

Mosquito bites have become really scary and we have cases being reported from most parts of India. But no. of cases are unreported:

Every year, for the last seven years or so, dengue outbreaks in India have been growing increasingly severe. In 2013 there were 55,000 reported cases and 132 deaths. While urban areas seem to be the hotbed of dengue, rural areas in the country have also been faced with outbreaks of dengue since the late 1990s. While the media’s focus has been on cities (Mumbai recorded 14 deaths including that of doctors and film personalities), Maharashtra’s rural areas collectively recorded 1,998 cases and 10 deaths with the prominent affected districts being Chandrapur, Beed and Wardha. Delhi, Odisha, Bihar and Tamil Nadu too reported cases and deaths from across rural and urban areas.

The causes are not difficult to list: rapid and chaotic urbanisation, lack of planning in terms of sanitation and garbage disposal, and the near breakdown of the public health services system. But the two leading reasons are poor vector surveillance and anti-larval work by the respective district health authorities. Health experts and doctors have been calling for a “prevention and control” policy since the early 2000s to be based on strong surveillance, proper training of the health field staff and emphasis on community participation in health awareness. Despite the repeated and growing outbreaks, however, these three aspects have failed to be the anchors of the anti-dengue measures. To deal with any disease, be it tuberculosis, malaria or dengue, surveillance data is of the utmost importance along with monitoring of suspected cases and efforts to reduce under-reporting. Unfortunately, in the Indian health context, the task of collecting credible data is simply not given the importance it deserves.

….Dengue is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by four virus serotypes and which affects a large number of the world’s population. India has the dubious distinction of reporting the most cases. A study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in October says that the annual number of dengue fever cases in India is 282 times higher than the official figure

282 times!

Most of our cities have been reduced to filth and squalor. The mismanagement is so gross that it is amazing. Cities like Bangalore are struggling with garbage for some 2-3 years now and there is no relief in sight. The whole place has heaps of garbage wherever one can get any vacant space. Even the vans which come to collect garbage are so dilapidated that they spill garbage wherever they go spreading the disease as well.

Our government has to be really serious with tacking garbage and diseases that follow from the heaps. In the parlance of macro/finance, we need a dengue target of 0% (hopefully) and governments doing every bit to lower it overtime. There has to be proper & honest assessment of the number of cases and action taken accordingly.

On one hand our newspapers are full of how India is going to be a superpower in most walks of life and on the other we can’t get the basics right.

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