India battles surge in dengue cases amid COVID pandemic | health news

New Delhi, India Wrapped in a thick blanket, 15-year-old Nikhil Mandal lies on a bed inside the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP) in New Delhi, India.

Mandal’s platelet count dropped to 8000 after he developed severe chills and a high fever and was diagnosed with dengue, with his family fearing that his condition might get worse.

Mandal is among nearly 1,170 dengue cases reported over the past week in New Delhi as India battles another health crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In all, 2,708 cases have been reported in the city so far this year.

At least nine people have died of the disease in the Indian capital, the highest such death rate in the city this year since 2017 when the official death toll reached 10.

As New Delhi hospitals are seeing a steady influx of dengue patients, the government has directed them to use the designated beds for COVID-19 patients.

To fight a fever, Mandal needs to maintain an optimal platelet count which requires regular blood transfusions.

“I’m very scared. I don’t know what to do. Pooja, Mandal’s mother, told Al Jazeera that the number of platelets in his body is decreasing and the doctors asked me to arrange a donor.

“Where will I arrange the donor?” She asked, adding that her husband, who has back pain, is at home looking after their two other children.

In the same ward of the government-run hospital, 20-year-old Irshad Hussain is lying on a bed opposite the mandala.

Irshad Hussain with his father at LNJP New Delhi Hospital [Bilal Kuchay/Al Jazeera]

Hussein was tested for dengue fever earlier this week after he complained of a high temperature.

We thought he had a fever from tuberculosis, which he had been diagnosed with three months earlier. But when we did some tests, he was diagnosed with dengue fever and since then he has been accepted here,” his father, Sajjad Hussain, told Al Jazeera.

“We were taking all the precautions against COVID and now we have dengue. We don’t know what is going on,” he said.

The LNJP hospital authorities told Al Jazeera that they were seeing nearly 100 patients with a high temperature every day, most of whom had tested positive for dengue.

“The number of COVID patients has decreased significantly and we have only a few patients, but now we are receiving dengue patients,” said Dr. Ritu Saxena, deputy medical superintendent of the hospital.

An overview of the locations of the world where dengue fever is common

The situation is not different in other hospitals in the city, which has a home of nearly 190 million people.

Dr. Atul Gogoi of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital told Al Jazeera that they receive 50 to 60 acutely ill patients per day, most of whom are found to have dengue fever.

“We can say that 80 to 90 percent of patients with a short period of fever generally turn out to have dengue,” he said, adding that the situation has put strain on the hospital infrastructure.

Dr. Gogoi said they are currently able to accommodate the influx of patients since there is already preparation for COVID-19 patients.

“But if this trend continues, it will be difficult,” he said.

An overview of the human organs that are subject to stress when infected with the dengue virus

In the world’s second most populous country, cases of mosquito-borne viral infections saw a sudden rise at the end of the monsoon season. A Ministry of Health statement last week stated that a total of 1,16,991 cases of dengue have been reported across the country.

In 2017, India reported 1,88,401 dengue cases – the highest in the past 20 years.

Last week, India’s health ministry rushed teams of experts to nine states and union territories with high numbers of dengue cases to help local governments control the spread of the disease.

The first signs of a dengue outbreak this year emerged in late August when a hospital in Firozabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh reported 38 deaths from a “mysterious fever”.

Health experts later said there was no mystery – it was mostly dengue.

Dr Jagandeep Singh Grover, a vector-borne disease program officer in the northern state of Punjab, told Al Jazeera that they have recorded nearly 19,000 cases of dengue this year.

“This year, I broke all records in Punjab,” he said, adding that more than 15,000 such cases have been recorded since last month.

Dr. Grover attributed the sharp surge in dengue cases to unexpected rains in October.

Another health official in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand told the island that they had recorded 716 cases of dengue fever this year.

In other Indian states, Rajasthan has reported more than 13,000 cases this year, neighboring Haryana has recorded more than 8,000 cases, and Tamil Nadu in the south has recorded 3,750 cases this year.

Health experts blame the increase in the number of vector-borne diseases on delayed monsoons and unexpected torrential rains in October.

“Mosquito reproduction is the main factor that occurs most during the monsoons,” said Dr. Saxena of the LNJP.

Dr. Grover from Punjab said: “There was more rain this year, and they were erratic. The last rain was in October. All conditions were favorable for mosquito breeding.”

As temperatures drop in northern India, dengue cases are expected to decrease.

“In the next two weeks, when the weather gets colder, mosquito breeding and virus transmission should decrease, this is the only way we can get a respite from the increase in dengue,” said Dr. Gogoi of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi.


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