Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

New Delhi, India Wrapped in a thick blanket, 15-year-old Nikhil Mandal is lying on a bed in the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) hospital in India’s capital, New Delhi.

Mandal’s platelet count dropped to a worrying 8,000 after he developed severe chills and high fever and was diagnosed with dengue, with his family fearing his condition could worsen further.

Mandal is among nearly 1,170 cases of ankle fever reported in New Delhi in the past week as India battles another health crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 2,708 cases have been reported in the city so far this year.

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At least nine people have died from the disease in the Indian capital, the highest such deaths in the city this year since 2017 when the official death toll reached 10.

As the hospitals of New Delhi see a steady flow of dengue patients, the government has ordered them to use the beds reserved for COVID-19 patients.

To fight his fever, Mandal must maintain an optimal platelet count that necessitates regular blood transfusions.

“I am very scared. I do not know what to do. “His platelet count is declining and doctors have asked me to arrange a donor,” Mandal’s mother Puja told Al Jazeera.

“Where will I arrange the donor?” she asked, adding that her husband, who suffers from back pain, is at home taking care of their two other children.

In the same ward of the state-run hospital, 20-year-old Irshad Hussain is on a bed opposite Mandal.

Irshad Hussain with his father in New Delhi’s LNJP hospital [Bilal Kuchay/Al Jazeera]

Hussain was tested positive for dengue earlier this week after complaining of high fever.

“We thought he had a fever due to tuberculosis, with which he was diagnosed three months ago. “When we did some tests, he was diagnosed with dengue and since then he has been admitted here,” his father, Sajad Husain, told Al Jazeera.

“We have taken all the precautions for COVID and now we have dengue. We do not know what is happening, “he said.

LNJP hospital authorities told Al Jazeera that about 100 high-fever patients are admitted there every day and most of them test positive for dengue.

“The number of COVID patients has dropped tremendously and we only have a few patients, but now we are getting dengue patients,” said Dr Ritu Saxena, the hospital’s deputy medical superintendent.

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The situation is no different in other hospitals in the city, home to nearly 190 million people.

Dr Atul Gogoi of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital told Al Jazeera they receive 50 to 60 patients with acute illnesses every day, most of whom appear to have knuckle fever once they have been tested.

“We can say 80 to 90 percent of patients with a short duration of fever appear to be generally dengue-positive,” he said, adding that the situation put pressure on the hospital’s infrastructure.

Dr Gogoi said they can currently accommodate the patient influx as there is already a setup in place for COVID-19 patients.

“But if the trend continues, it’s going to be difficult,” he said.

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Across the world’s second-populated nation, cases of the mosquito-borne virus infection saw a sudden rise towards the end of the monsoon season. A statement from the Ministry of Health last week said a total of 1,16,991 cases of dengue had been reported across the country.

In 2017, India reported 1,88,401 cases of dengue – the highest in the last 20 years.

Last week, India’s Ministry of Health rushed expert teams to nine states and federal territories with high dengue cases to help local governments control the spread of the disease.

The first signs of dengue outbreak this year came at the end of August when a hospital in Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh reported nearly 38 deaths due to a “mystery fever”.

Health experts later said there was no mystery – it was mostly dengue.

Dr Gagandeep Singh Grover, a program officer for vector-borne diseases in the northern state of Punjab, told Al Jazeera they had recorded nearly 19,000 cases of dengue this year.

“This year it has broken all records in Punjab,” he said, adding that more than 15,000 of those cases have been recorded since last month.

Dr. Grover attributes the sharp rise in dengue cases to the unexpected rainfall in October.

Another health official in the Himalayan state of Uttrakhand told Al Jazeera they had recorded 716 dengue cases this year.

In other Indian states, Rajasthan has reported more than 13,000 cases this year, neighboring Haryana has reported more than 8,000, and Tamil Nadu in the south has recorded 3,750 cases this year.

Health experts blame the growing number of vector-borne diseases on delayed monsoons and the unexpectedly heavy rains in October.

“Mosquito breeding is the main factor that is more during the monsoons,” said Dr Saxena, LNJP’s Dr.

Dr Grover from Punjab said: “There was more rain this year, they were erratic. And the last rain we got was in October. All the conditions were favorable for the mosquitoes to breed. ”

As temperatures drop over northern India, cases of dengue are expected to decline.

“In the next few weeks, as the weather gets cooler, mosquito breeding and virus transmission should decrease and this is the only way we can get a break from this dengue boom,” said Dr Gogoi of New Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said.

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