India is no stranger to infectious diseases, this includes mosquito borne diseases like malaria, chikungunya and dengue fever. In fact, 2015 has been a particularly heavy season for dengue fever even in the country’s capital of Delhi.
A study published one year ago revealed that India’s dengue burden is much higher than official stats reveal. The study, Economic and Disease Burden of Dengue Illness in India, by researchers at Brandeis University’s Schneider Institute for Health Policy in Waltham, Massachusetts and several Indian institutions reveals that annual data published by the Ministry of Health, a 6-year-average of 20,474 cases is low, so low that the study shows that using systematic empirical data to estimate the disease burden, the actual number is closer to 6 million cases annually, or nearly 300 times what the health ministry is reporting.
That is alarming in itself; however, a survey commissioned by Godrej Consumer Products Limited, which sells mosquito repellents in India shows that 92 percent of people are unaware that day mosquitoes cause dengue!
The survey report titled ‘Good Knight Dengue Awareness’ also states that 85 per cent of the 1,600 survey respondents know it is a life threatening disease and 76 per cent parents are of the view that children are most vulnerable to dengue.
In country that is so plagued by mosquito borne diseases like dengue, this clearly raises questions about public health dengue information dissemination and may explain the estimated 6 million dengue cases annually in the country of more than 1 billion people.
How this compares to other dengue stricken nations like Brazil and others is unknown to me, but it is definitely a problem in India that I hope will be addressed quickly.
Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch
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