Climate Change pushes dengue to newer areas in Assam

Climate Change pushes dengue to newer areas in Assam

Cases of dengue which was very rare in Assam, has now increased many folds, and according to experts and doctors, climate change has a major role to play in this.

Cases of dengue which was very rare in Assam, has now increased many folds, and according to experts and doctors, climate change has a major role to play in this.

According to health experts in the region, instances of dengue was unheard of till some years back, and was something rare till one or two years back, but in the last two years the number has gone up several folds, and they also blamed climate change for this.

This has also put the health department in a spot as they very rarely had to deal with this disease earlier, but last year a total of 1604 confirmed dengue cases were reported, and out of these almost 1466 cases were reported from Guwahati city itself.
“Temperature plays a major role in the spread of the disease, and one of the reasons is that the aedes mosquitoes, which spreads the disease cannot breed during winter," said BK Baruah, a government official associated with the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.
Baruah added that the disease usually spreads its tentacles during July-August when the climate is extremely hot, but added that during the last year, temperatures were high in the later months also and as a result of this dengue cases were reported post August as well.
Kiran Saikia, a 30 year old lady from the Guwahati city is among the ones who suffered from dengue severely last year, and had to be admitted at a hospital at Guwahati for over a week.
After getting discharged from the hospital in the first week of November, she said that she had read about dengue and was aware that it occurs during the summer period but was never aware that people could get infected with dengue during the winter months as well.
“Earlier I had heard about Dengue in newspapers, but had never thought that one day I will suffer from this deadly disease, and that too during the winter months. Also when I was at the hospital I was astonished to see some many dengue victims in one hospital itself,” said Saikia.
Saikia, who recovered from her illness within 10 days were among the lucky ones. There were several others who couldn’t recover and had to lose their lives. According to government figures 5 people from the state had lost their lives.
Among them includes Roopjyoti Dewan, 54, and his wife Loni Dewan, 50, who were from Guwahati city.
However according to civil society groups the number is much higher, as in several rural areas in the state, deaths as a result of dengue had gone unnoticed.
“The health units in several rural and backward areas doesn’t have adequate facilities to diagnose dengue cases, and a result of this several dengue cases and deaths had gone unreported,” said Pankaj Gogoi, an activist associated with the Guwahati based Non-profit organisation, Destination North East.
Activists of different civil society groups, including the influential All Assam Students Union (AASU), have expressed concern over the Assam government’s inability to curb the outbreak of the disease, and said that the excuses given by the health department, that it was not prepared is completely baseless.
“The health department has the responsibility of dealing with every disease and disease outbreak and that includes dengue as well, and it’s unfortunate that though people are losing their lives, the authorities are still lethargic in taking steps to contain the disease” said Tapan Gogoi, general secretary of AASU.
Climate Change catapulting Dengue
According to climate experts, the rainfall pattern and timing has changed and so there could be a shift in the period of the occurrence of the dengue disease. Earlier dengue cases were not reported after around September but last year instances of dengue was reported till as late as November and December.
According to Tulika Goswami Mahanta, a doctor associated with the Assam Medical College at Dibrugarh, global warming and climate change has been affecting the scale and transmission of infectious diseases, vector borne diseases, food borne diseases, water borne diseases and diseases induced indirectly by overcrowding
“Global warming and climate change can help promote the growth, survival, and spread of infectious agents including viruses, bacteria, protozoans, and multicellular organisms,” said Mahanta.
Explaining about Dengue fever, Mahanta said that it earlier followed a cyclical pattern of 30-40 years, but now is seen to be coming back every year.
She added that earlier instances of dengue were observed in some big metropolis but now they are observed in small towns like Dibrugarh in Assam itself.
Mahanta, who is researching on the subject, also pointed out that Cyclical pattern of vector borne diseases is becoming more frequent due to changing weather patterns such as temperature, humidity, precipitation and changing migratory patterns.
“Bird flu (Avian influenza) is another disease where the fatality rate could be up to 70 percent with influence by global warming,” said Mahanta.
Worried over this, the Assam government has issued instructions to its officials to work out remedies.
“Doctors and experts have been directed to look into the matter, so that dengue could be controlled and it doesn’t cause much damage again,” said Jibontara Ghatowar, parliamentary secretary to the health department of the Assam government.
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