Rise of dengue cases in Karnataka: Amidst 7,362 cases in 2024, it’s time for action, not political slugfest, say health experts

BJP MP Dr Manjunath suggested that the government must distribute mosquito nets to people dwelling in unhygienic conditions.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Jul 09, 2024 | 7:00 AM Updated Jul 09, 2024 | 10:55 AM

Rise of dengue cases in Karnataka

Dengue has been wreaking havoc in Bengaluru for a few weeks now. Over the past eight days, Bengaluru – encompassing BBMP, Bengaluru Urban, and Bengaluru Rural – has recorded a whopping 2,148 dengue cases.

On 8 July alone, the city reported 99 cases, while the entire state saw 197 cases. Tragically, six people have died after contracting dengue in the state. What has been distressing is that, even in the first half of 2024, Karnataka has reported a staggering 7,362 cases. The situation has also sparked a political slugfest, with parties blaming each other for the government’s handling of the crisis.

Agreeing that the number of dengue cases has gone up in the state, Karnataka health minister Dinesh Gundu Rao on Monday, 8 July, speaking to the media said, the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met on Sunday (7 July) and discussed the dengue situation in the state.
He said that as there are many active dengue cases in the state, the number of tests being conducted have been increased and arrangements have been made for treatment. He said, amid a spike in dengue cases, officials have been issued directions to take all preventive measures.

“We have held separate meetings with CEOs of Zilla Panchayats from all districts and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). Instructions have been given to spray medicines at places where mosquitoes germinate and spread more awareness among the public,” Rao said.

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Is it a situation of “medical emergency”?

Recently, Leader of Opposition in Assembly, R Ashoka and eminent cardiologist and Bengaluru Rural MP Dr CN Manjunath had urged the Congress government to declare dengue as a “medical emergency” and called for more efforts to control the spread. The leader of opposition also criticised the health department for its “inability to handle the situation.”

Dr Manjunath, stating that dengue had become endemic in Karnataka and criticising the health department for not doing enough, told media, “there is no specific cure for dengue fever. So we must fight mosquitoes on a war footing. The government is faltering on this front.”
However, while the health minister agrees that the rise of dengue every day is a matter of concern, he opined that it is not a situation for political slugfests.

In the backdrop of advice from opposition leaders and others to declare dengue as a medical emergency, the Minister said, the situation now doesn’t call for declaring dengue as a “medical emergency” in the state, and rejected the suggestion made by the opposition BJP.
“The situation is not such, to declare it a medical emergency, because all the facilities are there, like beds, medicines,” he said the TAC was also of the opinion that the situation was not so grave.

What should the government be doing now?

Epidemiologists and doctors opine that this is a situation where one must not make it into a political slugfest. Speaking to South First, a senior epidemiologist who did not want to be named said, this is the time to tackle dengue with evidence based management and avoid misinformation. He said, this is a season when there will be dengue outbreaks and is not new.

Speaking about some of the strategies to adopt both short term and long term, he said there are four key features to the current programme. As part of short term strategy he said, there must be:

  • Proactive surveillance and stepped up control measures.
  • There must be risk-based prevention and intervention strategies like source reduction, advocacy and information dissemination. Also, training the private and government health professionals on warning signs and referrals.
  • There must be coordinated inter-sectoral cooperation between the public, private, and people sectors.
  • Meanwhile, as long term strategies, the government must use evidence-based adoption of new tools and strategies. The doctor advised that “The government must use the adoption of new vector surveillance and control tools, such as the Gravitrap and Wolbachia technology.”
  • The doctor further said that the government must look for sustained community acceptance. They must come up with multifaceted program with intensified coverage and source reduction efforts, lids or insecticide-treated covers must be used for water-storage containers, ensure broad social participation aiming at long term sustainbliltiy and sustainable urban development efforts.

It can be noted that Gavitrap is a tool used for mosquito surveillance, specially designed to attract and capture gravid (egg-laden) female mosquitoes. The primary purpose of these traps is to monitor mosquito populations, especially those of disease vectors like Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopicus, which are known carriers of diseases such as dengue, zika and chickungunya.

Meanwhile, Wolbachia technology involves the use of Wolbachia, naturally occurring bacterium found in many insect species, to control mosquito populations and reduce the transmission of monsquto-borne diseases.

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What BJP MP Dr Manjunath said

While there is a door-to-door surveillance happening of dengue situation in the areas, Dr Manjunath suggested that the government must distribute mosquito nets to people dwelling in unhygienic conditions. And in schools, children should be provided with mosquito repellent patches.

He also said that infrastructure issues have been the primary reason for the failure to control mosquitoes. “Our infrastructure works do not finish on time. Flyovers and underpasses are half complete. Roads are not repaired. So water gets collected during heavy rains,” Dr Manjunath told reporters recently.

Meanwhile, residents, parents especially are concerned about the increase of mosquitos in their area and also the rise in the number of cases amongst the age group of 1-18 years. According to the statistics provided by the Karnataka Health Department on 8 July, a total number of 2,559 children in the age group of 1-18 have been infected with dengue. In just one day, 63 children were reported dengue positive.

Doctors suggest that schools particularly must ensure that they take utmost care to make sure there is no breeding of mosquitoes and also spread awareness and educate children about dengue fever and how they can keep themselves safe from getting bitten by mosquitoes.

“My son’s school have banned wearing shorts to school. We have been told to send a mosquito patch or mosquito repellent cream along with the child. They have instructed the child to apply the same when playing outside the classrooms,” said Neeti Prakash, parent of a student in a private school from Bengaluru.

To a question about any discussion at the TAC meeting regarding reserving beds for dengue patients, Rao said dengue infection doesn’t spread from person to person, unlike COVID, but still hospitals have been advised to keep beds.

“These cases can be handled at general wards, as there will be no need for any isolation……There is a need to spread awareness among people as to at which stage of fever they need to go to hospitals, and it will be done,” he said, adding that there is a need to be cautious for another two-three months as rains are likely to continue.

Asked about reports that some private hospitals were still charging more for dengue testing despite the government capping the rates, he said: “If anyone complaints, we will take action. I will also ask our officials to check. We can take action, no one should charge more.”

Urging the opposition not to politicise over dengue and spread fear among people, the Minister said, they have to behave responsibly and join hands with the government. “Instead, making vague statements is not right. I have spoken to BJP MP CN Manjunath, he spoke well and gave good advice, but Ashoka and other opposition leaders are saying vague things, they should think scientifically and advise in the interest of the people.

“More than mosquitos, BJP’s lies are spreading faster. It needs to be curbed,” the Minister commented.

(Edited by Neena)

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