Covid hits testing for vector-borne diseases in K'taka

Testing for vector-borne diseases in Karnataka hit due to Covid-19

In 2019, the number of blood samples collected for Dengue testing was 91,091 which reduced to 21,904 in 2020

This comes as Zika cases in neighbouring Kerala have reached 28. Credit: Getty Images

Burdened and flooded with Covid samples from various parts of the state, the 36 sentinel viral labs in Karnataka have drastically cut down on testing of dengue and other vector-borne diseases at a time when the Zika Virus Disease (ZVD) threat is looming large over the state.

In 2019, the number of blood samples collected for Dengue testing was 91,091 which reduced to 21,904 in 2020. Even for Chikungunya, in 2019, 21,340 blood samples were collected for testing which reduced to 6,935 blood samples in 2020. This comes as Zika cases in neighbouring Kerala have reached 28.

Despite the decline in testing for vector-borne diseases, the health department maintains that testing for suspected Zika cases won't be hampered in Karnataka. Every district has at least one lab testing Dengue and Chikungunya while testing for Malaria is done even in primary health centres.

Read | Co-infections: 19 patients affected with both Covid and Dengue so far in Karnataka

Dr Ramesh K Kaulgud, Joint Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), state health department, said, "Because of Covid all staff from the grassroots level, are engaged in Covid related work. The prevalence of diseases has come down in all programmes, not just NVBDCP because be it smear collection or blood sample collection, it has come down."  

While during the last outbreak of Zika, Manipal Centre for Virus Research in Udupi was identified among the 16 labs across the country to test suspected Zika virus samples, this time around health department officials said NIV, Bengaluru, has been chosen as a stop-gap arrangement.

"We don't expect a lot of pregnant women to be suspected of Zika. Only if they have suspected microcephaly or travel history, will they be tested. We have only asked for larval surveillance to be ramped up in villages/wards, ports/harbours, and airports, and have not asked to take samples from everyone. The same aedes aegypti mosquito transmits Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika too. So if we kill the mosquitoes, there's no scope of transmission, though this is the season for it. So, NIV won't be burdened much," a health department official said.

However, Dr Ramesh Masthi, department of community medicine, Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences, said, "Testing for vector-borne diseases has undoubtedly come down. This is also because 70 per cent of the population go to the private sector for tests, and we don't know whether all the private hospitals notified the government of the tests done or not."

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