Khammam district in Telangana has recorded 42 cases of dengue and one case of malaria in the last one month. According to officials, high rainfall in the region has contributed to such cases. However, this is a negigible number, compared to the nearly 400 cases of dengue that were recorded in just one mandal in Khammam district two years ago.
In 2016, the district suffered the worst dengue outbreak in the state, which claimed more than 30 lives, and over 500 patients are still reeling under its effect.
The government was heavily criticised for its unpreparedness to handle the crisis. With the death toll mounting, the government put the district on red alert and moved its entire machinery to the district to minimise fatalities.
In October 2017, the district had recorded 74 cases, which spread panic among the authorities.
However, since 2016, the government has been taking steps to curtail dengue cases to a large extent and has managed to avert fatalities with their timely intervention.
How the government reduced dengue cases?
According to the district health department, the district recorded only 42 cases of dengue this month, with several patients from the neighbouring districts such as Nizamabad and Suryapet availing treatment in Khammam.
As part of their efforts, the government had introduced 'Friday Dry day' programme.
The district health department identified that they should first prevent the increase of mosquitoes, and engaged 1,400 Asha (Accredited Social and Health Activists) workers across the district in the programme.
These Asha workers, in coordination with other departments such as Rural Water Supply, Municipality, Panchayat Raj, Child Welfare Department, would participate in the programme where they would empty utensils with stagnant water in all household, every Friday.
“This stops the larvae from growing into a mosquito. It was a crucial step in curtailing dengue and malaria,” says A Kondal Rao, District Medical Health Officer.
According to Rao, the department regularly carried out this task by convincing villagers that this would help them fight malaria and dengue.
“Fearing water scarcity, they would store water for an entire week. However, we had to convince them that the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation body was working along with us and that we will ensure that they will get water without fail,” he says.
Rao says that earlier the District Collector had entrusted only the medical department with the task of curbing the mosquito menace.
“We could not single-handedly combat the mosquito menace. Several departments, including the municipality, do not clean drainages regularly. This has added to the menace. So, we had to ask all the departments to work in coordination with us,” says Rao.
“We could minimise the dengue cases only by coordinating with all the rural and urban department,” the DMHO adds.
The medical team had to be on constant surveillance, while the Rapid Response Team (RRT) would conduct tests on residents and collect samples often to check if someone has any symptoms of dengue or malaria. There are 12 RRTs across Khammam, with regular camps in every town.
“These camps helped significantly to bring down the dengue cases,” says Lokesh Kumar, District Collector.
The District Medical Health Officer further added that they will be on a vigil until the monsoon ends. “We have advised all the officers to be extra cautious and identify dengue cases."