Chikungunya rears head again


Chikungunya, the breakbone fever, has made a comeback to the city after a span of one and a half years. The BMC on Thursday confirmed four cases of the viral disease that wreaked havoc in Delhi this year, affecting thousands and its complications claiming 13 lives.
The health report from the civic body stated that at least 20 more people are suspected to be suffering from the disease that spreads through the bite of the same aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits dengue. Physicians from the private sector are not surprised by the findings as they have been talking of viral fever cases with debilitating joint pain, a classic chikungunya symptom, since the onset of monsoon.
All the four confirmed cases have been reported from Dadar, Mahim and Mankhurd in the first 12 days of October. Another four of the probable cases have been identified by private physicians from Byculla, Tardeo, Girgaum and nearby areas.
“Looking at the disease map, it is clear that there is no clustering, as they are being reported from across the city. The disease’s most significant symptom is arthralgia (joint pain) seen in the majority of cases,” said Dr Minnie Khetrapal, head of BMC’s epidemiology department.
The last significant chikungunya outbreak in the city was in 2010 and prior when cases were reported in hundreds. In 2011, the incidence came down to 86 and drastically dropped further to the range of 30-40 in the following years. The last confirmed case of chikungunya was reported in 2014. The disease has not led to any known deaths so far.Physicians said the re-emergence of the virus was only a matter of time with Pune and several parts of the state already reeling under its attack this year. According to state figures, Pune has seen a 13-fold increase in chikungunya cases in the first nine months of this year compared to last year. The state has recorded 1,804 cases of chikungunya between January and August this year as against only 35 in the same period last year.
“Mumbai has the vector, and with the volume of people commuting between the two cities, it would have been impossible for the city to escape the virus for long,” said a doctor. Infectious disease expert Dr Om Srivastava however said that the disease is non-fatal and can be tackled with timely intervention. “There is no cause for panic. Patients only need to seek treatment on time,” he said.Khetrapal said that doctors from the public and private sector have been trained about reading symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. “What differentiates chikungunya from dengue is that the latter comes with fever and dropping platelets, while the former causes severe joint pain. The virus may not be visible in the blood in the initial five days, but afterwards, it may remain for three months or more,” said Dr Khushrav Bhajan, intensivist at PD Hinduja Hospital.
He said that the disease gets worrisome only when there is involvement of the brain or other vital organs.

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