Dengue, Chikungunya cases rising in Delhi: NCDC official

- July 26, 2023
| By : Muhammad Tahir |

Diseases caused by mosquitoes and lack of hygiene can affect people, says chief of National Centre for Disease Control

Dr Himanshu Chauhan

Delhi’s worst-ever floods have left lakhs of people displaced. Although the receding water has allowed people to return home, they face the challenge of starting life afresh amid diseases. 

The Delhi Government has also issued an advisory regarding water-borne diseases. It states that people should eat home-cooked fresh food, maintain personal hygiene, use ORS solutions to prevent dehydration and visit health facilities in case of vomiting, jaundice or fever. 

To know more about the possible diseases caused by the flood and the precautions to be observed, joint director of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), New Delhi, Dr Himanshu Chauhan spoke exclusively to Patriot.

How does NCDC work?

The National Centre for Disease Control is an organisation of Government of India under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Its main work is to take action related to communicable diseases, such as epidemics. We assess the threat, and if needed, take public health action to control it. 

What diseases are more common and dangerous during this time?

We are witnessing rain around the country and flooding in many states. Normally, many regions face floods at this time every year. So, flood related disease becomes our focus area, and it is this time too. Influenza and seasonal flu as well as diarrheal diseases come to light in this season. This year, advisories have been sent for heat wave, influenza, leptospirosis and many other diseases. It is a routine thing for NCDC.

How does NCDC take action? 

We carry out surveillance of the disease and assess the correct time of its spreading. We [at NCDC] have a national programme — integrated disease surveillance programme for it. A unit of it is installed in every district (750-plus) of the country. We keep an eye on 36 diseases with the help of an electronic device every day. 

Which is the main disease or menace here in Delhi?

In Delhi, this time [even without flood] we see an increase in dengue or chikungunya cases. Weak immunity and fever have also come to light. The main cause of all these is prevalence of mosquitoes. The Government of India runs an awareness programme and teams inspect home to stall the breeding of mosquitoes. 

Delhi is experiencing the worst flood ever. So how challenging is this time for Delhiites as they are not in the habit of seeing such floods?

Yes! You are right. People did not expect a flood of this magnitude, so obviously they will face difficulties. Apart from the economic loss, people also suffered trauma and injuries. Animal (dog, snake) bites and incidents of electrocution also increase at this time. 

When water recedes, the threat of epidemic increases. It’s one of the core areas that NCDC monitors. When people will return to their homes, skin problems will be experienced because the main challenge is ‘clean water’. Water pipelines, hand pumps and water plants have all been affected and can’t supply proper or clean water as earlier. The next 15-20 days will be very critical.

Mental trauma is also a big problem. After the Kashmir floods, we saw increased cases of mental illness there. NCDC and government did work on it and helped mental health specialists resolve it. 

What is NCDC doing on this?

NCDC issued an advisory on it last year. It covered all aspects of the flood. Our director sent it to all the states. If any state seeks help, a team is deployed there, such as it happens during a national disaster. Today, we saw that the Director General of Health Services (DGHS), Delhi, set up teams for dengue menace. They will go and check in camps. The advisory is also available for public on the NCDC website.

Is it more dangerous for children? 

Children are already vulnerable to many communicable diseases. We are seeing that children are playing in flood water on the road. This should not happen and guardians/parents should not allow them. This will ensure their safety. 

What should people do to prevent disaster or epidemic?

Drinking water should be clean and safe. If water from the municipal supply is not available, then people should use boiling water. The government is distributing chlorine tablets in camps and dispensaries for use in bathing or washing. A tablet is enough for 20 litres of water. The tablets should be dipped in the water and left for an hour. This water can be used for cooking too. Another important aspect is food. As far as possible, people should avoid eating outside. Consume only fresh food and take care of personal hygiene and be careful while shaking hands.