New Delhi: Dengue cases and deaths due to the disease have been rising across the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in the post-monsoon period.

India had reported a total of 87,018 dengue cases and 151 deaths until 15 October. Of this, the highest number was reported by Kerala at 18,908 cases, followed by Karnataka at 13,235 and Tamil Nadu at 12,945. The number of deaths was also the highest in Tamil Nadu at 40, followed by Kerala at 35 and Uttar Pradesh at 24. Karnataka has reported five deaths so far.

Dengue cases in Tamil Nadu have risen nearly seven times and deaths due to the disease 10 times compared with last year. The state recorded 1,895 cases and four deaths in 2016 till 31 October. In Kerala, the total number of cases was 6,725 and 13 deaths while Karnataka reported 5,230 cases and eight deaths.

Perturbed by the spread of the vector-borne disease, Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week directed the health ministry to depute a central team of multi-disciplinary experts to Tamil Nadu to investigate its outbreak in the state.

“The team is providing technical assistance to the state in dengue case management and vector control. The central team includes doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), New Delhi, Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC) and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), New Delhi," said C.K. Mishra last week, then secretary at the health ministry.

“The number of dengue cases in Puducherry and southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka was more this year when compared to previous years. There was every need for community participation to effectively control dengue," team head and joint director of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme Kalpana Baruah said.

Public health experts say climatic conditions and public participation in disease prevention plays an important part in combating dengue. “The spread of dengue depends on climate conditions of an area. In Tamil Nadu, the situation is bad because the state had a double monsoon this year. When monsoon recedes, generally south India witnesses an upsurge in dengue cases due to collection of water at various places," said Dr. A.C. Dhariwal, director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The Tamil Nadu government had also sought Rs256 crore from the centre to enhance dengue control activities. Health experts say there is very little awareness about dengue and its spread and prevention among the population in Tamil Nadu. There is also a dearth of aggressive campaigns about dengue as conducted in other parts of the country such as Delhi-NCR.

A recent study by the Chettinad Hospital and Research Institute, Chennai, published in International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health, stated that one fourth of participants didn’t follow any method of mosquito bite prevention practices. The study was conducted among 224 study participants from June-August 2016.

“Though majority of the study participants heard about dengue symptoms and mosquito transmitting dengue infection, less than half were aware about breeding habits of Aedes mosquito and 25% did not follow any method of mosquito bite prevention practices," the study said.

“Health campaigns and health education should be more aggressive and targeted on preventive practices in future. Health education would be provided via various strategies including mass media and using audio visual aids in health campaigns. Also, these programs should also ensure putting into practice the knowledge acquired," the study recommended.

The worst affected districts in Kerala due to dengue are Thiruvananthapuram (8,324), Kollam (2,752), Alappuzha (1,293), Kozhikode (1,292) and Thrissur (841). Huge cases in Karnataka are from Mandya (824), Kalaburagi (770), Davanagere (756) and Mysuru (757). Similarly, Thoothukudi (1191), Chennai Corp. (1,177) and Sankarankoil (1,084) are recording maximum cases in Tamil Nadu.

Apart from these states, West Bengal (5,389 cases) and Delhi (5,220 cases) also continue to remain affected with dengue. “In West Bengal, there was an overcrowding due to Durga Puja recently due to movement of people. The viruses DENV 2 and DENV4 of dengue are circulating in West Bengal and the clinical manifestation is different and concerning this time because there is an organ involvement during the diseases," said Dhariwal.

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