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Delhi dengue cases top 1,000

11th October 2006

01092006_Mosquito1.jpgThe number of dengue cases in the Indian capital New Delhi crossed the 1,000 mark on Tuesday, with dozen of new cases arriving daily at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), which is spearheading treatment.

Meanwhile, the situation has been exacerbated by an outbreak of another mosquito-borne disease, chikungunya.

At least one person from the Govindpuri area has reported to AIIMS casualty with suspected chikungunya and another 19 samples from Delhi are waiting to be tested for the virus.

Chikungunya is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes, typically Aedes aegypti, although there may be other competent mosquito vectors. The name comes from the Swahili for 'stooped walk', reflecting the posture of a person suffering from the disease. The disease has been described in Africa, Southeast Asia, southern India and Pakistan. It occurs principally during the rainy season.

Health experts are concerned and apprehensive about the monitoring and diagnostic confusion which is likely to occur when two similar diseases appear in the same population.

Doctors say as both diseases are notifiable and only a virology test can confirm which is which, confusion is inevitable.

Both are spread by the Aedes egypti mosquito, and have similar symptoms such as rashes, body ache, headache, fever and falling platelet count.

As neither the dengue virus, nor chikungunya virus have specific medications, treatment for both is mostly symptomatic, and analgesics and anti-fever medications are the most effective.

The appearance of chikungunya virus could also add to the panic.

In order to differentiate between dengue and chikungunya DNA fingerprinting needs to be done on the first day and because that is not possible in all cases, misdiagnosis is almost certain and monitoring will be difficult.

However doctors say dengue remains the greatest cause for concern as chikungunya does not have very high mortality rate.

At least two confirmed chikungunya cases have been reported in the capital and the disease is apparently making a comeback in north India after decades.

Over 700 cases of dengue have been reported in Kerala, in southern India, four of which are reported to have died. The area has also been battling with an outbreak of chikungunya in recent weeks.

Delhi officials are struggling to clean up the city where breeding grounds for mosquitoes are everywhere and are concentrating on eliminating standing water and spraying suspect sites.

They are also encouraging the use of mosquito repellant and bed nets and placing patients with the disease in nets to avoid mosquitoes biting them and spreading the disease further.

Taking into account the additional patient load, the AIIMS administration has announced enhanced patient services, including additional wards and medical staff.

On Tuesday, in addition to the already announced contingency plans, an additional 100 doctors and 50 interns were put on duty in the dengue ward, with blood collection and initial screening counters separated to streamline patient care.

The Institute had previously also converted some private wards into a general dengue ward to accommodate patients. On Tuesday it announced that the cardiothoracic wards too would accommodate dengue patients.

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