Vector-borne diseases’ threat worsens situation - GulfToday

Vector-borne diseases’ threat worsens situation

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Changing rainfall patterns warms oceans

Picture used for illustrative purpose only.

The monsoon season has hit India and several states have been lashed by torrential yet seasonal rain. A good monsoon is always the harbinger of hope for thousands of farmers across the country. But floods and cyclones are a constant worry too. However, along with the rains and the coronavirus pandemic (that is already straining the country’s resources), there are fears of other deadly and ravaging vector-borne diseases (VBDs) amid the rapidly increasing COVID-19 infections.

While there is no conclusive evidence of weather patterns affecting the spread of the coronavirus, scientists and leaders alike across the globe had expressed hope that hot summer months would kill the virus. Those hopes are fading as in India alone, the number of cases crossed 400,000 making it the fourth worst-affected country in the world.

Now with the rains setting in, humidity is also a factor. A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, published in the journal American Institute of Physics, humid weather during the monsoon can enhance the spread of the coronavirus. Many other research studies have shown that higher humidity levels helps the novel coronavirus to survive longer and spread faster.

To add to the woes are the other diseases that raise their head under such conditions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a recent address to states across the country, said, “With the onset of monsoon, there will be a proliferation of many non-COVID-19 diseases, for which we must prepare and strengthen our medical and health systems.”

As The Weather Channel reports, malaria, dengue, chikungunya – collectively known as the VBDs – continue to kill lakhs even today. Mosquitoes are the most common vectors that transmit several diseases, including the ones mentioned above that are caused by Aedes and Anopheles mosquitoes. Mosquitoes thrive in areas with standing water, including rainwater puddles, open tanks and old tires. Therefore, the monsoon season provides an ample opportunity for the mosquitoes to breed into millions within a very short time. Worldwide, nearly 3,500 species of mosquitoes have been identified, while in India alone, there are over 400 species, and almost all of them carry diseases. Together, throughout human history, mosquitoes are said to have killed more people than all the wars combined, say experts.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 400 million dengue infections happen around the world each year, killing some 25,000 people annually. WHO data shows that 2019 saw the most number of cases reported, with Asian countries bearing approximately 70% of the disease burden.

A live panel discussion involving the leading health professionals from across India organised by Thrive Global India and Business Insider emphasized the need to promote the message of equally focusing on non-COVID-19 diseases as well. “We have all been focusing on fighting the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 since the past few months. But, we have seen that natural disasters and other diseases are not under lockdown. Now, as the monsoon season begins in India, and our health care system remains stretched, this is the time vector-borne diseases become rampant,” said Dr Marcus Ranney, General Manager at Thrive Global India.

Sunil Kataria, CEO India and SAARC, Godrej Consumer Products Limited, added, “The socio-economic burden of VBDs is somewhere between 3-4 billion dollars in India. In a post-COVID world, the impact of such a disease burden is unimaginable. Being a market leader in mosquito control products, we have seen that every change in weather pattern brings unpredictable changes in the VBD phenomena.”

India is also likely to miss the deadline for elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis) in December and lymphatic filariasis by 2021 says a report by Mint India. It points out that indoor residual spraying, which is the only successful measure to prevent build-up of sand-flies –the kala-azar spreading vector – was scheduled to be undertaken in the last week of March., which has fallen behind and might lead to resurgence of cases. For lymphatic filariasis, a VBD transmitted by mosquitoes, mass drug administration has been postponed. The lockdown has made it difficult for people with resulting infections to access the services they need and they could lapse into more advanced stages.

Stagnation of water and pollution of freshwater sources can also exacerbate the spread of diseases too leading to water-borne outbreaks of typhoid, Hepatitis A, and acute gastroenteritis.

Related articles

Other Articles