Dengue claimed its first victim in rain-drenched Mumbai when 73-year-old Vinayak Mahadev Bapat, from Vijaynagar Society in Andheri, died of the dreaded fever at Sanjivani Hospital on Monday morning, according to officials of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
"The patient was admitted to the hospital on June 13 with symptoms of dengue. He had several other problems like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease and expired at 6.30 am on Monday," said Dr Santosh Jadia, of the intensive care unit at the hospital. Both state health department and BMC have categorized dengue as the most potential threat this year.
Dengue, spread by Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, is usually a post-monsoon disease but an early monsoon this year has seen an early onset of "dengue season." Mumbai saw the worst dengue outbreak in recent years in 2006 when the illness claimed 59 lives; more than 3,000 cases were reported in a period of three months. Last year just over 500 cases of dengue were reported and there was one reported death caused by dengue fever.
With the monsoon just setting in, the rising numbers of monsoon-related illnesses have caused concern. Over 2,100 have taken ill in Mumbai ever since the beginning of monsoon on June 6. There have been 1,385 cases of fever, 425 cases of gastroenteritis, 16 cases of dengue, 273 cases of malaria and one leptospirosis, according to BMC officials.
Malaria claimed its first victim of the season last Wednesday,
Dr Neera Kewalramani, deputy executive health officer, Epidemiology Cell, BMC said there was no cause for citizens to panic. "The monsoon has started early this year and that's why there are cases of casualties in the first week of June itself. Last year the rain related ailments started only in July," she said.
Though lack of hygiene and construction activities in the city are cited as reasons for malaria and dengue, private practitioners are of the opinion that the civic authorities should not entirely be blamed for the outbreak of monsoon-related ailments in the city. "You cannot blame the civic authorities and the government when you invite diseases by leading an unhealthy or unhygienic life," said Dr Suhas Pingle, general secretary, General Practitioner's Association of Mumbai.
Dr Pingle said monsoon-related ailments can be avoided by following some simple rules: avoid eating out, avoid drinking contaminated water, make sure there are no stagnant pools of water where mosquitoes can breed and avoid going out in water-logged areas, especially barefoot.