Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Chandigarh has witnessed a sharp dip in the number of vector-borne diseases as compared to previous years, government data suggests.
While experts believe a few months’ data cannot depict the whole picture, the UT health department has said that the dip was due to timely action, as well as emphasis on preventive measures taken amid the pandemic.
This year, so far, only 13 cases of dengue and six cases of malaria have been reported. Last year, the numbers were significantly higher at 286 cases of dengue and 22 cases of malaria. No case of chikungunya has been reported in the last two years.
‘Restriction, increased awareness main reasons’
Director, health and family welfare, Dr G Dewan, said, “Oiling of stagnant water, extensive sanitation and fumigation were carried out on a much larger scale. These routine exercises were not affected by the Covid situation in the city. It may also be due to the restrictions and increased awareness of the citizens towards hygiene.”
However, Dr Rajesh Kumar, former head of the department of community medicine and school of public health at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, said that restrictions and fewer outdoor activities could not be a major reason behind the dip.
“Most people get infected while they are at home and outdoor activities like the closure of schools and offices do not play a major role if proper conditions are maintained in those premises. However, for a proper picture to emerge, we need to wait and watch as cases are still being reported. The cycle for vector-borne diseases is on and more cases will come to the fore,” said Dr Kumar.
Most cases see a peak after every three years and the process is cyclic, he added.
Over the last five years, the city has seen a consistent decline in the number of vector-borne diseases being reported. The data presented in the Lok Sabha stated that Chandigarh recorded 1,125 cases of dengue in 2017 and only 301 in 2018. The number dipped slightly to 286 in 2019, and then majorly this year to just 6 cases.
‘Underreporting could be another reason’
“One reason could be that most people who had symptoms did not come forward due to the fear of Covid-19 testing and mandatory isolation that follows,” an expert from PGIMER said.
Health authorities, however, said the likelihood of this happening was unlikely because vector-borne diseases caused high-grade fever, while Covid-19 patients had low-grade fever. Therefore, “underreporting” could not be the major reason, they said.
Stressing on the role of hygiene, Dr RS Bedi, former president of the Indian Medical Association, Chandigarh chapter, said the pandemic had taught a lesson that a clean environment, sound civic system, improved public health, sanitation and garbage disposal, which came by default with closed schools, colleges, market places, offices and eateries, along with social distancing, could decrease the infectious disease load.
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