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India health officials: Dengue fever not a threat

India health officials: Dengue fever not a threat

Just three weeks before New Delhi is to host to the Commonwealth Games, the Indian capital has been hit by an outbreak of dengue fever.
Health officials played down the threat from the outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus on Friday, saying there have been only 1,580 cases _ leading to four deaths _ reported in the capital this year. But doctors in private clinics across the city say they have been inundated with dengue patients and accused the government of vastly understating the situation.
The dengue eruption is only the latest problem facing a sporting event already marred by allegations of shoddy stadium construction, missed deadlines and rampant corruption.
The severity of the dengue outbreak is blamed on the games, which has led to many half-finished construction projects across the city. Debris from some sites has clogged storm sewers leading to floods that created breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Water from particularly heavy monsoon rains has also pooled in the rubble at many construction sites.
Athletes from Australia and New Zealand have expressed concerns about attending the Commonwealth Games amid the dengue outbreak.
Health Secretary Sujatha Rao said the strain of dengue hitting in New Delhi was "quite benign."
"The present strain is known to cause a large number of dengue cases, but few deaths," Rao said.
Regardless, the government has launched an all out effort to wipe out the female Aedes mosquitoes that transmit dengue, she said. Thousands of municipal workers were fogging the worst affected areas with anti-mosquito spray, and larvae-eating fish have been released in waterways.
Dengue symptoms include high fever, joint pain, headache and vomiting. It is fatal in rare cases. India's annual outbreak normally dies off with the end of the mosquito breeding period in November.
Private doctors agreed that the dengue strain is relatively benign, but said the scope of the outbreak was far worse than the government has said.
"The figures are being severely underreported. The government is obviously not taking into account the hundreds of cases that are being treated by private hospitals and clinics," said Dr. Navin Dang, a leading pathologist who runs one of the city's busiest clinical laboratories.
In the last nine days, Dang's clinic alone had 322 positive dengue tests, he said.
"And there are a thousand other hospitals and clinics with similar numbers of patients. So the official figures don't tally," he said.
Dr. Ravi Gupta, another physician in the city of about 16 million, agreed that the official figures were far too low.
On Friday, municipal teams inspected many of the games venues to check for mosquitoes before the first athletes arrive next week.
At the main Commonwealth Games Village, scores of civic workers, some wearing masks, fogged and sprayed pesticides around a huge lake that has suddenly sprung up following the monsoon rains.


Updated : 2021-04-19 14:13 GMT+08:00