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Mosquito monitor loses bite

New Delhi, Oct. 5: Dengue has infected over 2,900 people and killed 38 across 11 states this year, health officials said today amid worries that India’s mosquito surveillance has collapsed because there are not enough entomologists counting mosquitoes.

While the dengue toll in Delhi climbed today to 18 among 673 cases, Kerala has recorded over 714 cases and four deaths and Bengal 314 cases and three deaths so far, according to figures from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.

Doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences told The Telegraph that the Prime Minister’s two grandsons and son-in-law, who have dengue, are stable.

Manmohan Singh’s two grandsons Madhav and Rohan and son-in-law Vijay Tankha were all today confirmed to have dengue. “They have classical dengue symptoms, and are stable,” a doctor said.

Health minister Anbumani Ramadoss said the overall numbers this year are lower than last year when India recorded 11,985 cases. “There is no need for panic,” he said after a meeting with state health ministers.

Ramadoss said select public hospitals would be designated as referral centres where people with high fever and other symptoms of dengue could walk in for free tests.

He said classical dengue, which is marked by high fever, bone and muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, is not difficult to handle. It can be treated in any hospital. It is only when signs of haemorrhagic dengue surface that the patient may require transfusions. But haemorrhage is a rare occurrence in dengue.

“We’re also taking steps to reduce mosquito breeding, and we’ve asked municipal authorities to penalise construction companies on whose sites mosquitoes are found to be breeding,” Ramadoss said.

However, a senior public health official said mosquito surveillance has weakened in India as entomologists working with state public health departments have retired over the years and their posts remain unfilled. “There has been an attrition of entomologists,” said Pyare Lal Joshi, director of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.

Joshi said surveillance in Delhi had revealed an unusual peak in the density of larvae of the Aedes aegypti mosquito during July and August, a portent for an epidemic of dengue in the post-monsoon season.

Entomologists say periodic surveillance of the density of mosquito larvae in water bodies can be used to predict the risk of outbreaks. The chances of an outbreak rise when the density exceeds a critical level. Doctors expect the number of cases to peak in October and then decline as the temperature drops.

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