Television news in the last few days has been focused on the chikungunya outbreak in the national capital. The tension in Delhi has recently been ratcheted up over 12 deaths in September alone due to chikungunya, a previously non-fatal disease,
However, in terms of sheer number of cases, the situation in Karnataka seems far more worrisome with the state recording an astonishing 64% of the total cases in the country.
According to statistics from the Union Health Ministry, Delhi stands a distant second, accounting for only 11% of the country’s 14,656 cases until September 11, that is, 1,724 reported cases.
Karnataka has recorded 9,427 reported cases of the disease in 2016. Of these, a little under 10% have been confirmed as tested positive. However, no deaths have been reported from the state at all.
Joint Director(Vector-borne diseases) of the Directorate of Health Services, Karnataka, Dr Prakash Kumar BG states that Chikungunya is not a fatal disease like Dengue, even though the viruses that cause both belong to the same group. “The symptoms are different. Almost the same tests are done to detect both the diseases. However, the disease at the most causes severe joint pains which take time to subside.”
He believes that there may be another cause behind the deaths. “The reports of chikungunya deaths in Delhi are surprising. Perhaps they shouldn’t waste any time in detecting what the real cause is,” he said
According to the state-wide statistics (from January – September 1, 2016) of the Directorate of Health Services, Tumakuru recorded the highest, and Bengaluru (urban and rural) the second-highest, number of positive Chikungunya cases.
Other parts of the state which have previously recorded high numbers of dengue cases, however, show comparatively lower numbers of chikungunya cases this year. Raichur, for instance, recorded only 12 cases.
Prakash said that some might argue that this difference is actually due to under-reporting of cases in those districts. “However, because of increase in construction activity, solid waste management during rainy season has been poor in urban areas. Hygiene has been a huge concern. So naturally when it rains the mosquitoes will breed.”
Apart from malaria, Japanese encephalitis (JE) and dengue fever, Chikungunya is one of the four major mosquito-borne diseases reported across India.
According to Prakash, awareness drives are being conducted in all districts since January.
“Karnataka does not face outbreak situation like in Delhi. We have periodically recorded cases since January and have also taught people how to destroy mosquito larvae,” he added.