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MCD sounds the dengue alarm

By Lalit K. Jha

NEW DELHI, JULY 18 . Two fresh confirmed cases of the dreaded dengue fever early this week and firm indications of a relatively high breeding rate of the aedes mosquito in residential areas of the Capital have alarmed municipal health officials. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi, which was appreciated by the World Health Organisation and the Union Government last year for keeping the situation under control, has been forced to activate its emergency action plan a bit early.

The two dengue cases, which were notified on Friday and Saturday, were reported from Dharmshila Hospital and Hindu Rao Hospital respectively, health officials in Municipal Corporation of Delhi said. So far six dengue cases have been officially reported, four of which were notified early this year.

The main cause for concern, however, is the high breeding rate of the aedes mosquito, whose biting causes the dreaded disease. As against last year's breeding rate of 2.4 to 3.6 per 100 houses during peak days, this year it has crossed 5.5. The situation might turn out to be alarming as the monsoon is yet to arrive in the Capital. Prominent colonies which have reported high breeding include South Moti Bagh, Pushpanjali, Shahdara, Rohini, Karol Bagh, Pusa Institute and parts of Delhi Cantonment. Instances of aedes breeding, which is mostly in fresh water, have been reported from unusual quarters like Sucheta Kriplani Hospital, Holy Family Hospital and Delhi College of Engineering. The MCD, as a result has intensified its mosquito surveillance measure, besides immediately initiating several precautionary and preventive measures. Instead of on a weekly basis, cases of dengue fever would be monitored daily from Monday.

With a few samples of the aedes mosquito being found in Delhi, a team of senior municipal health officials is scheduled to leave for Gwalior next week where the type and nature of the mosquito and its probable impact on human being would be studied at the Defence Research and Development Establishment laboratory. The officials would also undergo a three-day training there.

As many as 12 trucks mounted fogging machines - one for each Zone - are scheduled to be delivered to the MCD next week and would be immediately pressed into service. Last year, the civic body had used fire tenders. A set of six such machines are being procured, officials said. Having procured 134 smaller fogging machines, orders for another 89 such machines have been placed.

Intensifying its drive to identify areas where breeding of aedes is higher, the MCD has set up 2,800 centres of OV Trap across the city. This would be increased to 3,700 in coming weeks. As of now, municipal health workers are visiting these places twice a week. "This would help us in taking preventive measures," officials said.

Though a house-to-house survey to check mosquito breeding has been intensified and is being carried out on a war footing, officials said, this has so far not yielded desired result. "This is apparently because, the survey is being done mostly on papers. This is one area where there is a need to take strict action against those responsible," they said.

Further, a massive awareness generation programme is also being contemplated besides the on-going training programme for private and Government doctors, health workers and even resident welfare associations. "Every Saturday, we are a having training programme in each Zones," they said. Public and private hospitals and health care centres also being trained in handling dengue cases.

Through all these efforts, municipal health officials hoped, dengue would be contained in the Capital. But they do apprehend that the number of dengue cases might increase several times last year when 2,845 cases and 34 deaths due to dengue were reported. "Normally dengue cases are reported from August and they peak in October with the decline starting from December. This year it has come a bit early," officials said. The worst was however in 1997 when over 336 deaths and 10,000 cases of dengue were reported.

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