South Indian states are experiencing a considerable spike in cases of dengue fever compared to figures from last year.
The Directorate of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) recorded 28,702 cases of dengue fever in India from the start of the year until July 30. The total dengue cases for the same period in 2016 numbered only 16,870.
Kerala alone almost accounts for the same number of cases of dengue this year as whole of the country last year. Current numbers put the number of dengue cases as 13,913. Other states saw lower, though still considerable numbers. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka also saw high numbers of cases, with 5,474 and 4,186 dengue patients respectively.
Part of the reason behind the high numbers of dengue fever cases compared to figures from last year is suggested to be the early arrival of the monsoon season. This brings with it the damp conditions that allow for mosquito populations to thrive, causing mosquito borne diseases to increase during this time.
The figures may be a little misleading. What is indicated by these figures may not be an overall rise, but an indication of an earlier peak in mosquito breeding habits brought on by an earlier monsoon season. The provisional figures for the total number of dengue cases for 2016 is 129,166 (as recorded by the NVBDCP). This would indicate that the overall number of cases is expected to rise significantly as the year progresses. Whether this year’s figure will surpass that of last year is yet to be established.
From the NVBDCP data it can be established that there has been a consistent increase in the number of dengue cases every year since 2011, at which point the number of cases was as low as 18,860 for the whole year. The same figures state that the number of deaths occurring as a result of the disease have remained roughly consistent despite the significant rise in the number of cases.
The Indian Council of Medical Research has previously conducted studies that have suggested the actual figures for dengue fever could be as high as six million, nearly 300 times higher than government estimates. The study suggested that those who are treated but not hospitalised by the disease are not recorded, leading to far lower figures.
Dengue fever outbreaks are linked directly to the severity of the monsoon season. Heavier rains, causing damp conditions for months, allow for larger populations of mosquitoes which elevates the exposure of people to the disease. Trends in NVBDCP data suggest a gradual increase in the number of cases on a yearly basis. Due to the early monsoon, this year is on track to surpass the already high figures from last year, posing an even bigger concern to the healthcare system.