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Covid-dengue co-infection worries officials

Health experts fear that co-infection of Covid and dengue could trigger severity in both the diseases in the days to come.

SANKHA GHOSH | Siliguri |

As Siliguri witnesses steady cases of Covid-19, fear of a dengue outbreak has added to the worries of the health department. Health department officials have said they have laid emphasis on preventive measures.

Health experts fear that co-infection of Covid and dengue could trigger severity in both the diseases in the days to come.

“We are taking necessary steps to avoid co-infection. House-to-house visits of health workers to collect data for entomological study are underway. We have already released guppy fish that feed on mosquito larvae in water bodies, while awareness campaigns have been intensified. No fresh dengue case has been reported. We have focused on preventive measures,” said Darjeeling district chief medical officer of health, Dr Pralay Acharya.

Health specialists say it was difficult to differentiate the symptoms of the two diseases because of primary clinical presentations.

The state government has issued guidelines and protocols to hospitals on treating such cases and creating awareness.

The Union ministry of health and family welfare has also issued guidelines for the management of co-infection of Covid-19 and dengue, malaria and other seasonal epidemic prone diseases and has alerted about severe Covid19 and dengue case surge.

Entomologists say Siliguri is a dengue-endemic region. The disease had claimed around six lives, while more than 1300 people were tested positive for its virus in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) area last year.

Cases of vector-borne diseases like dengue go up after the monsoon. October and November are considered important months as there are spurts of dengue cases during this time.

Darjeeling district has recorded around 13,000 Covid19 cases, which is the highest among districts in north Bengal. There are around 1500 active cases and more than 140 people have died so far.

The International Journal of Infectious Diseases, which is published monthly by the International Society for Infectious Diseases, has pointed out a study that says co-infection could present a diagnostic challenge.

“Similar symptoms and laboratory findings between dengue and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pose a diagnostic challenge in some dengue-endemic countries in Asia”, it said in an article published on 25 October.

According to health experts, as major focus had been laid on combating the Covid-19 crisis, tests for dengue remained low.

“The fear of co-infection looms large, and the situation will become a challenge for the health department and the administration. If there is a rise in cases of dengue, as it will create more pressure on the already overburdened system. Most of the hospitals have reserved beds for Covid19 patients and it will not be very easy if there is a dengue outbreak,” said a doctor at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital.

A member of the board of administrators of the health department, SMC, Shankar Ghosh, said the civic body was conducting extensive spraying.

“Though no fresh dengue case has been reported, there is no room for self-complacency. We are aware of the possibility of co-infection of Covid-19 and dengue and we have discussed this. At this moment, we are focusing more on spraying,” Mr Ghosh