Mosquito menace: Dengue gives South India the chills as Southwest Monsoon returns

A 4-year-old boy's death in Chennai underscores the growing dengue threat as South India braces for a surge in cases with the return of the rainy season.

BySumit Jha

Published Sep 12, 2023 | 12:18 PMUpdatedSep 12, 2023 | 12:28 PM

Mosquito Dengue

The resumption of the Southwest Monsoon has brought with it a spurt in dengue cases across the South Indian states.

In Chennai, the vector-borne disease claimed the life of a four-year-old boy on Sunday, 10 September, leaving healthcare experts worried.

Meanwhile, Karnataka reported approximately 7,000 cases of dengue in the state. In Telangana, doctors noted that roughly 50 percent of fever cases in outpatient departments (OPDs) are dengue cases.

Dengue cases in Karnataka

Amid a surge in dengue cases in Karnataka, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Monday, 11 September, instructed officials to take all necessary precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the vector-borne disease. He urged the people to keep their neighbourhood clean.

On his official Facebook page, Siddaramaiah said that more than 7,000 dengue cases have been reported across the state in the past few days, out of which more than 4,000 cases were from Bengaluru city alone.

“I spoke to department officials concerned about the rapid spread of dengue and instructed them to take all the necessary precautionary measures. In Bengaluru city limits, effective measures are being followed for mosquito control, including spraying of medicines, identifying places where water is stored, and cleaning them,” Siddaramaiah said.

“I request the public to give priority to cleanliness around the house and be careful about mosquito bites. Don’t be afraid of dengue, be aware,” the chief minister added.

On Friday, Karnataka’s Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao said that Bengaluru alone had reported 4,427 dengue cases this year.

In Bengaluru, the dengue outbreak saw 1,649 cases reported in July, followed by 1,589 cases in August. He added that stagnant rainwater has been identified as a significant factor contributing to the spread of the disease.

In response to the dengue surge, particularly in Bengaluru, the state government has launched a disease surveillance dashboard and a mobile application as part of its containment efforts.

Also Read: More than 3,200 dengue cases reported in Bengaluru in 2 months

Dengue cases in Telangana

In Telangana, health authorities are on high alert due to a substantial surge in dengue cases.

In August, Hyderabad alone reported 1,171 cases of dengue, marking a significant increase compared to the previous month’s 164 cases.

From January to August, Telangana recorded a total of 2,972 dengue cases. This represents a sharp rise from the 961 cases reported till the end of July. The majority of the cases, totalling 1,562, were concentrated in the Greater Hyderabad region.

To address this growing health concern, state Health Department officials have mobilised teams to identify and assist individuals displaying fever symptoms, indicative of dengue.

The Health Department has directed hospitals to proactively manage rainy season-related illnesses. However, the Health Department, in a statement, emphasised that the situation is not alarming, as a surge in dengue cases is common during the monsoons. Hospitals are routinely geared up to cope with the challenges posed by rainy season-related ailments.

Health authorities have collaborated with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) to implement fogging and anti-larvae operations in areas affected by dengue outbreaks. Preventive measures, including wearing long-sleeved clothing, using mosquito repellents, and maintaining cleanliness in and around homes have been recommended.

Also Read: Can papaya leaf extract truly increase platelet count in dengue fever?

What doctors in Hyderabad are seeing

Individuals displaying dengue symptoms are advised against self-medication and encouraged to seek prompt medical attention at the nearest healthcare facility, whether government or private. Early diagnosis and proper medical care play a vital role in improving outcomes for dengue patients.

Speaking to South First, doctors said there is a sudden surge in dengue cases in Hyderabad. “The situation wasn’t severe till August end, but in September, there has been a notable increase. Approximately 50 percent of the cases presenting at the hospital are now dengue-related,” Dr Sri Karan Uddesh Tanugula, Consultant General Physician at Yashoda Hospitals in Hyderabad, told South First.

“In tertiary care centres, 90 percent of cases reaching the clinics either have low platelet counts or are exhibiting severe symptoms of dengue which have not been resolved in the home setting,” he added.

Additionally, doctors at district hospitals in Hyderabad are observing a substantial number of patients who initially attempt self-medication with over-the-counter drugs.

“When their condition doesn’t improve, they eventually seek medical help at hospitals. In such cases, doctors at the hospital suspect dengue and confirm it through diagnostic tests,” Dr Dashrath, Resident Medical Officer at Kondapur District Hospital told South First.

The doctor also pointed out that with the onset of the monsoons in the state, dengue cases have started to rise. “Even researchers have pointed out that with the onset of monsoon rain, the cases of dengue go up,” he said.

Also Read: As companies get dengue vaccine trial nod, scientists are sceptical

Dengue death in Chennai

The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has launched an intensified campaign to curb mosquito populations after the death of a four-year-old child.

The GCC’s action comes after Chennai Corporation Commissioner J Radhakrishnan visited the child’s home in Maduravoyal and directed officials to escalate efforts aimed at reducing mosquito-breeding sources in the vicinity.

The child was a resident of Pillaiyar Koil Street, Maduravoyal, located within Zone 11, Division 144.

A team, led by Commissioner Radhakrishnan and comprising the zonal officer, an entomologist, and field assistants, conducted thorough inspections to identify and address mosquito-breeding grounds in the neighborhood. Immediate steps were taken to reduce these sources.

Radhakrishnan stated that health workers are carrying out regular inspections to eradicate mosquito-breeding possibilities.

In Chennai, approximately 17 lakh homes are categorised into sectors and each sector is further divided into streets comprising around 500 houses.

In a press release issued on 11 September, GCC mentioned that the civic body officials would be inspecting these homes every week to identify potential mosquito-breeding grounds.

Additionally, traditional medicines, including nilavembu kashayam, would be provided for free at Amma Unavagams, primary healthcare centres, schools, and medical camps in the city.

The GCC has also ramped up its Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) initiatives aimed at raising awareness about vector-borne diseases across all zones within the city. Health officials have reported that nearly 20 cases of dengue have been documented this month alone.

Also Read: As dengue cases spiral in Hyderabad, govt to conduct fever survey

Symptoms of dengue

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral illness that can cause a wide range of symptoms, which can vary in severity. Common symptoms of dengue fever include:

  1. High fever: Sudden and high fever is often one of the first signs of dengue infection.
  2. Severe headache: Dengue fever is characterised by intense headaches.
  3. Pain behind the eyes: Pain, especially behind the eyes, is a common symptom of dengue.
  4. Joint and muscle pain: Dengue can cause severe joint and muscle pain, which is why it’s often called “breakbone fever”.
  5. Rashes: Rashes may appear a few days after the fever starts. It can vary from a mild rash to a more widespread rash.
  6. Fatigue: Fatigue and weakness are typical symptoms of dengue fever.
  7. Nausea and vomiting: Many people with dengue fever experience nausea and vomiting.
  8. Mild bleeding: In some cases, dengue can cause mild bleeding, such as nosebleeds, gum bleeding, or easy bruising.
  9. Abdominal pain: Severe abdominal pain may occur in some cases and it can be mistaken for other abdominal conditions.
  10. Loss of appetite: Loss of appetite is another common symptom of dengue fever.

Dr Tanugula suggested that the symptoms can vary from person to person and not everyone with dengue will experience all of these symptoms. “In some cases, dengue fever can progress to a more severe form known as dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, which can be life-threatening,” he said.

Also Read: Puducherry scientists develop mosquitoes to control dengue spread

Treatment of dengue

Treatment for dengue fever primarily focuses on relieving symptoms and providing supportive care. There is no specific antiviral medication to treat dengue, so medical management is essential to ensure a smooth recovery.

Here are the key aspects of treatment for dengue fever:

Stay hydrated: Dengue fever can cause significant fluid loss due to symptoms like fever, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Rehydration is critical. Drink plenty of fluids, including water, oral rehydration solutions (ORS), and clear soups to maintain hydration levels. In severe cases, intravenous (IV) fluids may be required.

Pain and fever management: Pain relievers like acetaminophen (paracetamol) can help alleviate pain and reduce fever. Avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, as they can increase the risk of bleeding.

Rest: Get plenty of rest to help your body recover and conserve energy.

Monitoring: If you have dengue fever, it’s crucial to monitor your symptoms closely. If you notice any signs of severe dengue (also known as dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome) such as severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, bleeding gums, or difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention. Severe dengue can be life-threatening.

Blood tests: Your healthcare provider may conduct regular blood tests to monitor your platelet count and other blood parameters. A significant drop in platelet count is a concern and may require hospitalisation.

Hospitalisation: In severe cases of dengue fever or if there are signs of dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, hospitalisation is necessary. Intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, and close monitoring of vital signs are part of the treatment in such cases.