Seasonal sting in the tail; Protracted rains led to rise in dengue, dengue-like illnesses Health experts

Mumbai: The delayed withdrawal of monsoon last year caused as many as 711 Mumbaikars to be hospitalised with dengue-like illness, as compared to 412 in December 2018, a 72 per cent increase from the previous year. The sudden change in weather and unseasonal rains provided a perfect breeding environment for the virus, health experts said.

“Last year, the city recorded a high amount of unseasonal rainfall, leading to a rise in the number of dengue cases. Cyclone Kyarr also led to unprecedented rainfall, causing a 70 per cent rise in the incidence of this monsoon disease in November,” said a senior health officer from BMC.

In December 2018, the city had recorded 36 confirmed dengue cases, with an increase of just three in 2019. However, 13,741 suspected dengue cases were recorded last year, of which 920 were confirmed. Hearteningly, dengue deaths decreased from 14 in 2018 to three in 2019.

Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health official, BMC said, the protracted monsoon last year led to an increase in the number of dengue cases.

"People may have waded through flood water, so we had advised doctors to administer the antibiotic doxycycline to all fever patients.Through various means, we are trying to raise awareness among people about the symptoms [of leptospirosis and dengue]. We are also doing daily disease surveillance, which is helping us diagnose patients earlier,” she said.

Dr Rahul Tambe, senior consultant, internal medicine, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, too attributed the rise in mosquito-borne ailments to the unseasonal, late showers in October and November, saying this created a favourable environment for mosquitoes to breed.

“The unseasonal rains set off a ripple effect, resulting in the spread of diseases like dengue. Both diseases are completely preventable and we have to maintain a sanitised environment to avoid dengue mosquito breeding. It’s best to visit the doctor immediately if you have a cut or scratches on your feet and have waded through water-logged areas,” said Dr Tambe.

Health officers said they had requested private practitioners to put all fever patients on a course of doxycycline post-monsoon, if they suspected dengue symptoms.

Dr Om Shrivastava, another expert on infectious diseases, said, the sudden change in temperature makes the body vulnerable to certain diseases. “People need to see a doctor immediately, as the symptoms of leptospirosis are quite similar to those of dengue, malaria, and chikungunya. Patients should take medication as prescribed by the doctor and not attempt any home remedies,” he added.

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