India is reeling under the effects of the country's worst epidemic of the mosquito-borne virus in decades with almost 45% of Indians having been infected by Chikungunya, according to the World Health Organization.
In a statement issued yesterday by the WHO, over 1.25 million suspected cases have been reported since February. The disease, although rarely life-threatening is debilitating with severe joint pain and high fever. So far the disease has spread to 151 districts in eight Indian states, and even to some islands in the Indian Ocean.
The WHO said in the statement, posted on its Web site, 'In some areas, reported attack rates have reached 45 percent. After an interval of more than 20 years, chikungunya fever has been reported in India, Comoros, Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles.'
To complicate matters further Chikungunya infection is misleading doctors in the diagnosis of dengue fever, which shares similar symptoms. An outbreak of the dengue fever has killed more than 50 people, according to India's health ministry report last week. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's grandsons Madhav and Rohan and son-in-law Vijay Tankha are among thousands of Indians who were checked for possible dengue fever.
Winter season from Oct to March is often considered as a peak period to visit India, but this year the number of tourists is likely to come down. This is because almost the entire country is drastically clutched in the jaws of dengue and chikungunya. The worst affected states include Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat and Delhi. By now 7.6 lakh cases of Chikungunya have been reported in Karnataka and over 43,000 in Kerala, with 90 deaths reported in Kerala and seven in Ahmedabad.
With the Commonwealth games knocking at the door and portraits of Delhi as a world's modern city, the epidemic of these diseases tells another story. So far the Union government appears to be almost paralyzed to curb this menace. Union Health Minister, Mr. Ramadoss is faced with a situation that needs some long lasting solutions, without which the health of tourism as well as the face of Indian economy will be marred.