Dengue cases expose civic apathy

Against 10%, PMC Surveys Less Than 1% Households Between April & June
The rising cases of dengue have once again exposed the half-hearted surveillance work undertaken by the civic body. As per the norms of the National Vector Borne Diseases Control Programme, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is expected to inspect 10% of the population every month that comes to around four lakh households. However, the monthly surveillance reports of PMC have shown that only 10,000 to 12,000 households were surveyed each month between April and June this year, which is not even 1% of the sample.Even if 40% of the popula tion lives in slum areas, where the surveys are primarily focused, the PMC should have covered at least 1.50 lakh people (10% of 15 lakh population living in slums) every month, experts said.

Since the beginning of this year, city has recorded 194 cases of chikungunya and 544 cases of dengue from private hospitals and designated sentinel centres. As many as four people have succumbed to dengue-induced complications in different parts of the city and its outskirts.

In the absence of specific anti-viral therapies for treat ment of infections like dengue, prevention and control through surveillance and anti-larval measures remain the first line of defence.

“Once breeding is identified, the next step is to conduct anti-larval measures using larvicides. But looking at the dismal number of households surveyed over the last three months, it appears that the PMC health department has been lackadaisical in their approach,“ health activist and medical practitioner Sanjay Dabhade told TOI.

Since, the surveys covered a minuscule population, the percentage of households found infested with dengue-causing mosquitos larvae (Aedes aegypti) has remained very low. Putting things into perspective, the surveys are not at all representative of the population, experts said.

“Had PMC conducted proper surveillance inspecting adequate number of households, there would not have been so many cases of dengue and chikungunya in the city ,“ said an entomologist with the state health department.

Sharing his view, another entomologist said, “The prevailing situation in Pune city is similar to that of last year.Actual numbers of dengue cases are less than last year but chikungunya is rising. Everyone should remain alert to prevent breeding. Money plant, bamboo plants in vases, refrigerator and coolers are not to be ignored. Since we have virus active in the commu nity, even lower indices are also alarming as they can still transmit the diseases.“ Staff crunch When quizzed about the lousy approach, the civic body blamed it on severe staff crunch. Also, as per civic officials, the vehicles of biologist and malaria officers were taken away few months ago, hampering the surveillance process.

Sujata Ambekar, PMC bio logist, said, “There is no denying the fact that we are reeling under severe manpower crunch which has badly reflected on the surveillance activity . Over 45% posts are not filled at the insect control department. Besides, our official vehicles had been taken away a few months ago which has badly hampered our mobility and effective work at the ground level.“

“A huge chunk of the staff which was earlier with the insect control department has now been diverted to municipal solid waste management due to which the surveillance work has taken a beating,“ Ambekar said.

When contacted, Anjali Sabne, acting head of the civic health department said, “We are in the process of hiring 200 workers on contract basis in a week. This will bolster our surveillance efforts.“

Source : TOI