Dengue is no longer confined only to the monsoon season and sporadic cases of the disease have been noted during summer as well. Delhi has so far recorded 650 cases of dengue already this year and experts claim that at least 50 cases have been recorded in every city. Dengue caused in the summer is attributed to the storage of water in water coolers and also to keeping water in containers for birds and other animals to drink during the summer. “Travelling to foreign regions with high humidity and rain showers is also found to cause the transfer of virus from foreign regions to our country,” explained Dr Farhan Shaikh, an expert on the management of dengue and pediatric critical care.
Q What are the reasons for the outbreak of dengue in the summer?
Dengue outbreak during the summer is sporadic in nature and not endemic as is seen during the monsoon season. The major cause of dengue during summers is found to be the storage of water in water coolers, which provides a conducive environment for the Aedes mosquitoes, which carry the virus, to breed. This increases the likelihood of the occurrence of the disease.
Q Can climate change also be a reason for the spread of dengue?
Even though majority cases are noted during monsoons, dengue has pretty much become a year-round phenomenon. Climate change does not play a major role in this. Storing water and then leaving it unattended is what allows mosquitoes the environment to breed. Water in urban tanks, pot trays, drinking water bowls for animals and birds, etc. make for perfect breeding opportunities for mosquitoes. It is essential to practice the weekly dry day and ensure that all containers and trays are properly dried. That is the best method of prevention.
Q Are the sporadic cases of dengue as virulent as those in the endemic season?
Mutation causes the nature of the virus to change every year. So while the virus might affect the brain in majority cases through one particular year, it can affect the liver in majority cases through another cycle or cause more hemorrhages through another cycle. Hence, it depends on the virus and the ability of the practicing physician to identify the trend and accordingly administer treatment. Diagnosis of the other organs of the body also becomes important to ensure that there is not much damage.
Q Do a maximum number of dengue cases require hospitalisation?
No. 95 per cent of dengue cases can be managed at home, however only if the patient visits the physician at the right time and follows their advice in terms of medication and rest. Dengue management is symptomatic and requires proper treatment, sufficient fluid intake, and a fair amount of rest. However, if signs like persistent fever, drowsiness, and bleeding are noticed, then hospitalization becomes critical to ensure complete care primarily because the virus is found to affect other organs as well and that requires experts to come together to manage the disease.
Q Many patients are found to depend on alternative medicines like papaya leaf extract and homeopathic medication for the management of the disease. Does that really help?
No scientific evidence has been found or produced to favour the use of the aforestated alternative medications. In fact, we've seen critically ill patients who have tried to cure dengue using such medicines but have had to check in to the hospital eventually.
Q While people are aware of the occurrence of endemic cases during monsoons, is there enough awareness about the possibility of dengue during summer and winter months?
The awareness of especially summer cases is very minimal among people. However, because rising temperatures are driving people to use coolers during the day, the likelihood of the presence of still water inside homes is now very high. Hence, it is becoming increasingly critical to spread awareness and to encourage observing dry days throughout the year. Additionally, those who travel to cooler foreign regions to escape the Indian summer are found to catch the disease there, which increases the possibility of its transmission to others after they return.
Q How must one protect themselves?
One needs to prevent mosquitoes from biting them to prevent the disease. Wearing long sleeves and long pants, using EPA registered mosquito repellants, using a mosquito net, and avoiding areas with standing water during mornings and evenings can greatly reduce the likelihood of occurrence of the disease.