Is public health in India secure?

With dengue and chikungunya cases skyrocketing,BioSpectrum speaks to Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director general ICMR to elaborate on India's disease outbreak management strategy and the need for a national policy in disease outbreak management.


Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director general, ICMR

The country's national capital is reeling under one of the worst outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya this year. The cases of chikungunya and dengue are soaring and health authorities are scrambling to contain the outbreak. According to a municipal report, at least 6,712 people have been afflicted with chikungunya in the national capital, with 1,473 cases of the vector-borne disease being reported in October. Though doctors have claimed chikungunya to be non-fatal, 20 patients suffering from this disease have reportedly died, and 25 people have died due to dengue. Health experts say the sudden "upsurge" of the disease this year could be a result of "evolution" of the viral strain.

Speaking to BioSpectrum Asia Magazine, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director general ICMR, elaborates on India's disease outbreak management strategy and the need for a national policy in disease/outbreak management.

Q.India is reeling under one of the worst outbreaks of chikungunya and dengue this year. In your opinion what could be the reasons?

A: India has been facing recurrent outbreaks of dengue almost every year. A major dengue outbreak was experienced last year as well (2015). In the current year, both dengue and chikungunya cases have been reported from many parts of the country. Intermittent rain with warm temperature and high humidity are the ideal conditions for mosquito breeding. Further, lot of construction activity and urban water storage provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Every year new cohorts of people, not previously exposed to dengue/chikungunya leads to an available pool of susceptible individuals with no pre-existing immunity. When such pool of people crosses a certain threshold, outbreak occurs. Chikungunya virus has only one serotype, whereas dengue has four different serotypes which do not cross protect against each other. In viewof this a person who has previously had dengue due to one serotype is susceptible to get infected by other serotypes and manifest as a full blown disease. However, after a major chikungunya outbreak, the population develops enough immunity, so we do not see another outbreak for 8-10 years.

Q.What are the steps/measures taken by the government to attend to this crisis?


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