Change in disease pattern poses fresh challenges - The New Indian Express

Change in disease pattern poses fresh challenges

Published: 30th November 2012 12:00 AM

Last Updated: 29th November 2012 11:33 PM

Infections typical of hot and humid weather, such as dengue, malaria, encephalitis, meningitis and chikungunya, have tended to persist despite the onset of winter reflecting a changing weather pattern. Normally, diseases that break out during the rainy season tend to fade away on the withdrawal of the monsoon. That hasn’t happened this year posing a new challenge for public health authorities. Cold-weather maladies, like various types of influenza, including the dreaded swine flu and bird flu, have surfaced, adding to the woes. Delhi alone has recorded more than 1,800 cases of dengue causing scores of deaths. Mumbai, too, has seen over 700 cases of dengue, including some deaths, the most famed victim being filmmaker Yash Chopra. The situation in other cities and villages is no different.

Given that no vaccine is yet available for many of these diseases, preventing the proliferation of vectors, notably mosquitoes, breaking their breeding cycle seems the best way to tame them. Though civic administrations often tend to put the onus of doing so on the public by asking people to avoid accumulation of water in their premises, this alone will not suffice. Stagnant water in drains and accumulated leaves in public places need to be cleared regularly. This is not to deny, however, that it is vital that the public be sensitised to take the necessary steps to combat the problem at their own level by preventing water stagnation.

Bird flu and swine flu infections, which spread through air and not through vectors, are known to respond to some of the available prophylactic and curative medicines, including Tamiflu, which need to be stocked and made available to the public at affordable prices. Given the magnitude of the challenge, this is no mean task. Public health authorities need to play a more pro-active role. To be effective, the combat against these diseases needs to be carried out on many fronts.

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