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No signs of slowing down

The dengue epidemic in the national capital is set to get worse. On Thursday, a three-year-old girl died of dengue, taking the total number of dead to 15. Officials in the national capital have called the current dengue epidemic as the worst outbreak of the disease in five years. News reports go on to suggest that over 1,900 people in the city have been affected by the disease since January 2015. Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court has asked the Centre and city-state government to explain the steps they have taken to contain the vector-borne disease. In response to the court, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has told the court that adequate steps to treat dengue patients are being taken. 

The Delhi government, meanwhile, has asked hospitals to procure 1,000 new beds for dengue patients, besides organizing fumigation drive all over the city to mitigate the current crisis. The situation, however, has become so bad that the AAP government was forced to cancel leaves granted to doctors. What’s worse, the incidence of dengue usually peaks in the second and third week of October, according to medical experts. The national capital is in for a long-drawn fight against the disease. 

Dengue is both preventable and curable. Children and senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to dengue. Tons of newsprint has been dedicated to India’s under-performing, poorly-funded, leaky public health system, smothered by high population and appalling sanitation. As recent incidents have highlighted, Delhi’s hospitals do not have enough hospital beds for dengue patients. Besides the outbreak, patients are forced to deal with the high-handedness of doctors in private hospitals. In the case of smaller private hospitals, patients are treated for a few days and sent to overburdened state-run hospitals. <g data-gr-id="30">Anytime</g> there is an outbreak, experts bemoan the lack of state expenditure on public health. 

However, the NITI Aayog, which is the Centre’s leading think-tank, has objected to increasing investments and focusing on the public health sector, as stated by the updated draft National Health Policy of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. Complicated economic rationale notwithstanding, the NITI <g data-gr-id="27">Aayog’s</g> suggestions are anti-poor. Public healthcare expenditure in India only amounts to 1.19 percent of India’s Gross Domestic Product, when compared to China (3 percent) and Brazil (4.9 percent). It is well below the 5 percent figure recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Coming back to dengue, the WHO has declared dengue a hyperendemic disease in India. For the uninitiated, hyperendemic refers to a high prevalence rate. Moreover, it is a leading cause of hospitalisation and death among children, according to the WHO.
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