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Address alarming rise in dengue cases

Bengaluru now accounts for over 50% of the dengue cases reported in the state. The South zone tops the list, followed by the West and East. Paediatricians have reported a 50% spike in hospitalisation of children due to dengue and respiratory infections.
Last Updated : 10 September 2023, 22:15 IST

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A total lack of preparedness on part of the Karnataka health department and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has led to an alarming increase in the number of dengue cases in the state capital. With monsoon getting active in July, the number of cases saw a 150% increase over the previous month, but the BBMP’s failure to act on a war footing has only worsened the situation. In August alone, about 2,300 cases were reported. This is the highest number  recorded in a month in the last two years. Bengaluru now accounts for over 50% of the dengue cases reported in the state. The South zone tops the list, followed by the West and East. Paediatricians have reported a 50% spike in hospitalisation of children due to dengue and respiratory infections.

A major cause for the dengue outbreak is the breeding of larvae in stagnant water, especially in households where water is collected in containers. Water also stagnates in plates below flower pots, coconut shells, old tyres and pits dug on construction sites. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), outdoor surveillance is key to dengue prevention, something that is woefully lacking in Bengaluru. An acute shortage of resources has hindered the BBMP’s battle against dengue. Each primary health centre (PHC) is required to have a team led by an ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) representative to visit every household once in 15 days to inspect and remove potential dengue-breeding water sources. But with only 1,050 ASHA representatives being available, barely 25 to 50 households are inspected in a day. Bengaluru has over 28 lakh households. Another problem faced by the BBMP is ASHA workers being denied entry to apartment blocks and elite housing societies, whose residents fail to realise that dengue can strike both the rich and the poor alike.

Dengue is a disease that is largely preventable through effective monitoring, and the government should immediately augment the ASHA brigade to ensure constant surveillance both in slums as well as in apartment blocks. Punitive action should be initiated against housing societies, office complexes and malls that prevent ASHA workers from discharging their duty. BBMP should also put to use the dashboard developed by AI and Robotics Technology Park (ARTPARK), IISc,  which uses artificial intelligence to predict when and where the mosquito-borne disease may occur. Both the government and the BBMP could have put to use the experience that they gained in tackling Covid to combat dengue, but their response has only been reactive rather than proactive. It is high time the BBMP realised that when it comes to matters of health, prevention is better than cure.

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Published 10 September 2023, 22:15 IST

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