Dengue has regained some of its sting, malaria is on the rise and viral fever is the spoilsport of the festive season in many city homes.
Aedes aegypti, the vector that has taken at least 15 lives in the city this year (the health department’s website pegs the toll at nine) is back in business after a break forced by regular spells of heavy rain at the fag end of monsoon.
Although the number of patients being admitted to hospitals with dengue is much less than at the peak of the outbreak, virologists advise caution against mosquito bite until winter arrives.
“Dengue and malaria are likely to remain a threat for another four to five weeks. The incidence of any vector-borne disease declines after the minimum temperature drops below 15 degrees Celsius and mosquitoes go into hibernation,” said Shyamalendu Chatterjee, scientist with the virology unit of the Indian Council of Medical Research in Calcutta.
Experts blamed Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s failure to sustain its vector-control programme for the resurgence of dengue once the heavy rain died down ahead of Durga Puja.
The civic body had lumbered though the crisis until Mamata Banerjee criticised it for not doing enough to combat vector breeding across the city. The sting in the chief minister’s statement forced the CMC into action but sources said the vector-control programme was stopped mid-October.
“Larvicide spraying was hardly taken up and there wasn’t any monitoring either. The clinics where blood samples were being collected went back to being health care centres only in name,” an official said.
But for monsoon’s heavy slog-over scoring that washed away some of the mosquito larvae, the city would have had more dengue victims. “The increase in the rate of infection since monsoon’s departure is because of civic inaction. Mosquitoes started breeding again in the accumulated rainwater and the CMC apparently didn’t do anything about it,” a senior health department official said.
The death of film-maker Yash Chopra in Mumbai because of complications resulting from dengue is sending people scurrying to hospitals at the hint of fever and other symptoms of the disease.
This time around, more people are testing positive for malaria than dengue. “Viral fever is also endemic at this time of the year, mainly because of the change in weather. The symptoms are mostly fever with sore throat, headache and, at times, nausea,” critical care expert Subrata Maitra said.
Virologists said the six to eight weeks between the end of monsoon and start of winter was a tricky period for vector control. “The post-monsoon and pre-winter period sees the vector population increase abruptly and remain very active,” an expert said.
Doctors advise people to get treatment based on symptoms and lab tests instead of rushing for hospitalisation.
“A month back, patients who tested positive in the NS1 antigen test but had platelet counts of more than one lakh were getting admitted. Now doctors are advising such patients to stay at home and get treatment,” said S.B. Purkayastha, CEO, Ruby General Hospital.
The hospital had 25 dengue patients during Puja. On Sunday, their number was down to 17.
Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals had around 40 dengue patients on an average in mid-September. The 510-bed hospital had scaled it down to seven by the first week of October, only to see the dengue-afflicted count increase to 25 during the festival week. On Sunday, 20 patients were in the hospital’s care for dengue.
Belle Vue Clinic had 56 dengue patients on September 14, which declined to below 30 in the first week of October.