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Broad approach needed to tackle vector-borne diseases in India

People suffering from Dengue and Chikungunya are flooding hospitals, often unnecessarily

Broad approach needed to tackle vector-borne diseases in India

Indian woman, Laxmi Devi, 27, under observation for dengue, rests on a bed in the dengue ward of a government hospital in Allahabad on Sept. 9. (Photo by AFP)

A holistic and realistic approach needs to taken to effectively address an increase in the number of people suffering from vector-borne diseases in India, say church officials.

Due to the monsoon season there has been a surge in vector-borne diseases — those spread by insect bites — including Dengue and Chikungunya resulting in hospitals in many regions being flooded with sufferers. Some hospitals do not have enough beds and are accommodating patients two to a bed or even in the corridors.

But often going to a hospital is not required for someone who has been diagnosed with any one of the diseases, said Father Mathew Perumpil, secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India office of health care.

"These are viral infections and only a small percentage [are] fatal," said Father Perumpil. "It is better we try to cure the diseases through conventional ways rather than going to the hospital."

The priest said that doctors cannot do much to treat viral infections. They will only administer medicine and monitor the situation which people can do at home.

"We need to approach this problem in a realistic way," said Father Perumpil. "People need to be made aware of the do's and don'ts in a proper way because there is a lot of misinformation."

Dengue can be fatal if it develops into dengue hemorrhagic fever. Its symptoms include vomiting, joint and muscle pain and headache. Over 36,000 cases of the disease have been reported and 70 people have died.

Likewise, the Chikungunya virus, which is also spread via mosquito bites, leads to fever and severe joint pains that can last for weeks or months.

According to data released by the National Vector Borne Disease Control Program, over 12,000 cases of Chikungunya have been reported in the country with Karnataka in southern India topping the list with over 9,000 cases. The capital, New Delhi has seen nearly 2,000 cases and 15 deaths.

Father Mathew Abraham, director of the Catholic Health Association of India, told that in a big country like India, the problem cannot just be solved medically alone.

"There are socio-economic factors attached to the disease like keeping the surroundings clean, removing stagnant water where these mosquitoes breed. There has to be other interventions also," said Father Abraham.

"There needs to be other interventions also. Only blaming the health sector and government will not help."


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