New Delhi: A parliamentary panel has asked government to find scientific solutions to curb the spread of infectious diseases like chikungunya, while emphasizing the need to control the population of mosquitoes.

The issue was discussed by the parliamentary standing committee on science and technology, environment and forests in its meeting with the central government’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) last month.

In its report, the committee appreciated the progress made by DBT in the direction of vaccine development for diseases like malaria, dengue, Japanese encephalitis.

“The committee, however, did not find any mention of the efforts being undertaken by the department in the direction of chikungunya and as to what research and development activities have been undertaken by the department during last few years," questioned the standing committee led by Congress leader Anand Sharma in its latest report which was tabled in the parliament this week.

The panel said that it is “of the considered view that our country has been facing severe health issues with regard to chikungunya infection" and emphasized on high cases of deaths due to it during the last few years.

In past few years, vector-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria have become a major public health concern in the country accounting for substantial morbidity and mortality.

According to National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), at least 157,220 dengue cases were reported in 2017 with highest number of cases in Tamil Nadu (23,035) followed by Kerala (19,912) and Karnataka (17,018). A total of 250 deaths were reported in 2017 with maximum number of casualties being 63 in Tamil Nadu, followed by 41 in Maharashtra and 37 in Kerala.

Similarly, there were 662,268 cases of chikungunya in 2017 with highest number in Karnataka (31,644) followed by Gujarat (7,670) and Maharashtra (7,639). As far as malaria is concerned, 840,838 cases of ther viral infection were recorded in 2017 with 106 deaths.

“The Committee feels that there is a need to control mosquito population which can to an extent be an attributed factor in spreading Chikungunya infection. The Committee also feels that the Department of Biotechnology can play an important role by finding biotechnological solutions to keep mosquito population under control," added the panel report.

The committee recommended DBT to “intensify its R&D (Research and Development) and product development activities for development of safe, efficacious and inexpensive chikungunya vaccine".

“Several factors contribute to vector borne diseases in India. Under several programs there is a lot of construction taking place in various parts of the country, where mosquitoes get conducive atmosphere to breed. Temperature fluctuations also are a major reason. With cases surging every year, the government is speeding up its surveillance for mosquitoes," said Dr A.C. Dhariwal, director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

“Public participation is equally important in control of mosquitoes as people have to ensure they don’t have collected water in their houses such as in pots, coolers and other discarded items," he said.

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