Vector control failure causing Uttar Pradesh fever outbreak

Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  A Central team sent to western Uttar Pradesh last week to investigate a deadly outbreak of “mystery fever” has said in its report to the Union health ministry that poor hygiene and inadequate vector control may be leading to a surge in monsoon diseases this year.

The cause of the fever that has claimed nearly 100 lives, mostly children, in Firozabad and adjoining districts has been identified as a combination of dengue, scrub typhus and leptospirosis — all spread through vectors.

Firozabad and Mathura alone have recorded more than 1,000 cases in the last two weeks and the outbreak has also spread to some pockets of eastern UP and other parts. Firozabad has been worst affected and it reported as many as 105 fresh cases of dengue and viral fever on Sunday.

A top official of the National Centre for Disease Control, which sent five officials to the states, told this newspaper that vector control measures during the rainy season look particularly bad this year. “I cannot comment on the reasons but it is poor vector control and bad hygiene in semi urban and urban areas that seems to be leading to this major outbreak of vector-borne diseases,” he said.

Scrub typhus is a bacterial fever spread through bites from chiggers, or larval mites, found in bushes. Its symptoms include fever, headache and body ache, which later progress to rashes and inflammation of the nervous system which can cause confusion and even coma. Leptospirosis, also a bacterial disease, spreads through the urine of infected animals and has similar symptoms. Dengue, on the other hand, is a viral infection that spreads through the bite of infected mosquitoes and patients often suffer fever, muscle and joint pain. In extreme cases, blood platelet count drops, leading to internal bleeding and possible death.

District health authorities in Firozabad have released Gambusia fish that feeds on mosquito larvae, in ponds around the district and asked schools not to hold classes till Class 8 till September 16. Samiran Panda, chief epidemiologist with ICMR, said long term measures like behaviour changes and raising awareness are a must to contain the viral outbreak during the rainy season that kills hundreds.

Reports of viral fever in other states poured in too. In Delhi, while 104 dengue cases are reported every day, major government hospitals are recording 50-60 cases of viral fever a day, from 15-20 earlier. In Bihar, health department officials confirmed the sharp rise in cases of viral fever with symptoms of vector disease like dengue. Most of the patients are children brought after they experienced fever with body ache and other symptoms. At Patna AIIMS, which has 60 beds in paediatric wards, 80% are occupied with children down with viral fever.

Maintaining hygiene in rainy season inadequateOfficials of the National Centre for Disease Control believe that maintaining hygiene in semi-urban and urban areas during the rainy season has been a problem,  leading to vector-borne diseases.

Inputs from Somrita Ghosh (New Delhi), Namita Bajpai (Lucknow) and Rajesh Kumar Thakur (Patna)