"An epidemic of dengue fever in India is fostering a growing sense of alarm even as government officials here have publicly refused to acknowledge the scope of a problem that experts say is threatening hundreds of millions of people, not just in India but around the world," the New York Times reports. Dengue is endemic in half of the world's countries and continuing to spread, experts say, according to the newspaper. In India's capital, New Delhi, "where areas of standing water contribute to the epidemic's growth, hospitals are overrun and feverish patients are sharing beds and languishing in hallways," the newspaper writes. With officials citing 30,002 cases of dengue in India through October, "a 59 percent jump from the 18,860 recorded for all of 2011," several experts say the true number of infections in the country is in the tens of millions, the New York Times notes.
"A central piece of evidence for those who contend that India suffers hundreds of times more dengue cases than the government acknowledges is a recent and as yet unpublished study [.pdf] of dengue infections in West Bengal that found about the same presence of dengue as in Thailand, where almost every child is infected by dengue at least once before adulthood," the New York Times writes. Most cases of dengue result in mild fever and fatigue or more serious flu-like symptoms, but "[i]n about one percent of cases, dengue advances to a life-threatening cascade of immune responses known as hemorrhagic or shock dengue," the newspaper notes, adding, "The great danger of having hundreds of millions of people in India with undiagnosed and unacknowledged primary infections is that a sudden shift in the circulating dengue strain could cause a widespread increase in life-threatening illnesses" (Harris/Kumar, 11/6). A separate article in the New York Times' "India Ink" blog describes the type of mosquito that carries dengue and challenges to reducing the disease's spread (Harris, 11/7).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.