Vector-borne diseases big challenge amid COVID-19 crisis

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New Delhi: Even as the country struggles to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the national capital has yet another ordeal to go through in the time to come, as Delhi prepares itself to deal with vector-borne diseases (VBDs) such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday chaired a high-level review meeting on prevention and control of malaria, dengue and chikungunya in Delhi through video conferencing.

The minister said that the VBD problem is a perennial one and this year it has come at the time when the whole country is grappling with the outbreak of COVID-19.

"There was a severe outbreak of dengue in Delhi in 2015, which affected nearly 16,000 people, killing 60 of them. As compared to that situation, presently we are in a better position as around 50 dengue cases have been reported so far in the city. However, we cannot afford to be complacent in our approach in our fight against dengue," he said.

The minister also stressed on the importance of innovative awareness drives, community participation and cooperation of all the stakeholders in changing the situation of COVID-19 to prevent vector borne diseases.

Joint Secretary at Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Rekha Shukla, gave a presentation on the situation of dengue, chikungunya and malaria in Delhi as well as the steps being taken to control these diseases.

She said that dengue (Category -I) cases start in the month of July, spike in October and ebb down in November and December. Shukla also provided information about chikungunya and malaria besides suggesting effective strategies to combat these VBDs.

The meeting also discussed the action plan for inter-sectoral coordination required, involving the state government, municipal corporations, Central and state government hospitals, Railways and the Cantonment Board.

Harsh Vardhan urged all the representatives from the Central government hospitals to not neglect the cases of VBDs as there is no vaccine available and the fight can be fought successfully only through preventive measures.

He further said that the government is duty bound to provide all logistical and technical support to the Delhi government in terms of surveillance and diagnostic kits to strengthen their preparations. Also, protocols for training of doctors and paramedics can be shared with the Delhi government, if required.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain assured that the same would be done immediately. It was also suggested that all hospitals, including the private ones, should work in synergy for VBDs to ensure that the government and the private interventions and the efforts to prevent and cure these diseases are in tandem.

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