With rains come fevers in India. Every city and town in India, led by the national capital Delhi and the commercial capital Mumbai,Gurgaon, Hyderabad and Vijayawada are battling the increase in fevers especially the dreaded Dengue and Chikungunya. It is a regular affair but the health and municipal authorities are blamed every year….But has anything changed for the better in health or sanitation facilities, to what it was from the last year or the year before?
Yes. In the name of Swacch Bharat, the government is collecting taxes from anything to everything but has the ground reality changed? The overall condition of our localities, water sources,drains, roads and lakes speak for themselves.
The fevers range from bacterial causes to simple viral fevers and the dreaded dengue fever, Chikungunya and Malaria. The government hospitals are crowded with fever cases and those who can pay the extra fee are flocking the private hospitals.
Instead of creating health awareness and confidence in the people the governments politicize the issue and start a blame game. We are left watching the dramas unfold between parties while the common people are left helpless. The Government hospitals are unable to cope with the fevers and the private ones are blamed “for looting the patients” for creating a Dengue scare. There is no transfusion ward for Dengue haemorhagic fever in the Vijayawada Government hospital. It will be interesting to wait and see to which hospital our officials will go if they end up with Dengue!
Recently two school children,studying in 5th & 7th classes died of Dengue in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. They finally succumbed to the illness in a Children Speciality hospital in…………wait, Bangalore. A girl aged 16 died in Adilabad . One death occurred in Karimnagar. These are the officially accepted Dengue deaths so far but we in the health department feel that this is only a tip of the iceberg.
Going by the statistics provided by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the number of dengue cases had never crossed the 2,000 mark, other than in 2012, even in the United AP. In 2015, the number of cases has seen a multi-fold surge from 1,262 in 2014 to 3,105. About 790 chikungunya cases were also registered in 2015.
What about 2016? This time around the AP government has got wiser- they do not want to register cases as Dengue- instead simply as fever cases. That way the official numbers decrease. The state government says that only 633 positive cases of the mosquito-borne disease have been registered in the state so far. But unconfirmed reports say over 1,000 cases are being treated in various private hospitals while the government is acknowledging only those cases that are registered in its own hospitals, ignoring the many cases referred to private hospitals. Though the governments claim that only three dengue deaths have occurred, unofficial sources say that more than 25 people have died of dengue in the last two months.
The Anantapur deaths prompted the government to suspend a municipal sanitation official and issue a charge memo against a health officer. A knee-jerk reaction at the most. The “civic authorities have been asked to immediately control stray pigs.”
Nearly all the important cities and towns of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana still have a open drainage system. Even the twin city of Hyderabad , Secunderabad has only open drainage. These open drains are a fertile breeding ground for all kinds of mosquitoes and are a favourite haunt of stray pigs- a common sight in every town, if we carefully observe. How will control of pig population help if the open sewers and mosquitoes remain? Do our leaders even know what they are talking about?
According to a study conducted by doctors of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, published in 2012 under “Drainage and sewerage system in urban India: Need for action”in Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine:
“As per the census 2011, at country level, there is no drainage facility in 48.9% households, while 33% households have only open drainage system.The cities of Delhi and Mumbai generate some 17% of all the sewage in the country.”
Why is action not taken so far with regard to this problem? Till then we will continue to battle the seasonal fevers and encourage more and more resistant forms of viruses, bacteria, protozoa (the pathogens) and of course their vectors, the ubiquitous mosquitoes.