Vector borne diseases are one of the major killers worldwide, especially in the tropical region. Dengue is a diseases caused by Aedes Aegypti mosquito. In the last decade, cases of dengue and associated deaths have been on the rise, all over India.
This year, the cases have reached massive numbers in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In Tamil Nadu, the number of cases this year has reached 11,500 by the first week of October. The mortality statistics, provided by Tamil Nadu Health Secretary attributable to Dengue and Unknown fever are 35 and 85 respectively. However, professionals and activists feel that the statistics provided are a gross under-estimation of the actual situation. In spite of being hailed as pioneer in public health services, Tamil Nadu real under a crisis of Dengue epidemic.
In a bizarre turn of events, Govt of Tamil Nadu has started to promote herbal measures namely ‘Nilavembu Kashayam’ (Concoction) and ‘Papaya leaves Juice’ as mainstream intervention in dealing with Dengue. It is a known through various studies and research that Dengue has no specific curative drug but only conservative management. This treatment has not been recommended by any reputed health bodies like ICMR or guidelines of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), as mainstay of the Dengue treatment
Among these two, ‘Nilavembu kudineer’ lacks scientific clinical evidence. The studies on ‘Papaya leaves Extract’ are also not complete and evaluation on its safety is still pending. However, they are being ushered in the name of natural medicine, by all the IEC materials, apps and awareness campaigns conducted by the Govt machinery.
Government hospitals stocking up and using the concoction in their wards, Schools distributing it to the students, State Ministers participating in awareness activities to take a sip of the concoction in public and a dengue app with front page content are few amusing shades of the campaign. All this is done without any scientific evidence to back the campaign.
What is worrisome is the attitude of state government in promoting irrational quick fixes to a larger problem of prevention and control of vector borne diseases. Science organisation, Tamil Nadu Science Forum and various organisations expressed that the government’s direction is based on incomplete evidence, which comes at the cost of public resources and safety point of citizens.
Source reduction of vector is still the single most effective method to control dengue and other vector borne diseases like malaria. Local body government and Health systems should be strengthened to take up vector control and provide necessary conservative treatment. We demand the government to undertake regular Health awareness campaigns, involve community participation, improve surveillance and implement the guidelines as mentioned by the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP).