India is seeing one of its worst outbreaks of dengue fever in years, with the country’s most populous state being the hardest hit. Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj district has reported a total of 97 dengue cases by September 15. The mosquito-borne viral disease is especially hitting children, with 465 children still admitted to the state’s Firozabad District Medical Hospital.
The deadly viral disease is spread by the female Aedes aegypti and the Aedes albopictus mosquito species, out of which the former is more prevalent in India. According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 400 million individuals get infected with dengue every year. With one out of four individuals falling sick with the disease, 100 million show symptoms and nearly 22,000 die each year from the disease. The disease is prevalent in areas with a large population of mosquitoes, mainly in the tropics and subtropical regions.
While dengue numbers had been at a multi-year low during the previous year, presumably due to the lockdown and similar restrictions, the recent outbreak is thought to be the worst one in years.
“We are taking preventive measures and 95 health camps across the district have been operating in order to contain the spread of this fever,” Dinesh Kumar Premi, the Chief Medical Officer in Firozabad told Reuters.
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Apart from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Indore, Mumbai and Delhi have also reported various outbreaks of dengue. Local authorities have launched inspection programmes to locate and destroy mosquito breeding grounds, something made much harder with record-breaking rain in several of the affected areas, which often leads to water stagnation.
Dengue still has no specific medication to treat a severely symptomatic infection. However, a single dengue vaccine exists under the name of Dengvaxia® (CYD-TDV) developed by Sanofi Pasteur, the French pharmaceutical giant. The vaccine is cleared for use in the 9-45 age group in several countries, including India, but it can only provide immunity to those already infected by dengue.
However, advances in mRNA technology, which is being used to combat COVID-19 effectively, offer hope for effective management of viral diseases like dengue and malaria.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)