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Dengue Fever Strikes Tropical Areas of India - 2003-10-11

Dengue fever has killed at least 80 people and made thousands sick in India. The disease strikes millions of people in tropical areas every year.

Health authorities say they are seeing a sharp increase in dengue fever cases this year, including a more deadly form that can cause internal hemorrhages and death.

Tens of thousands of people are sick with the mosquito-borne disease. Experts blame this year's abundant monsoons, which left behind millions of stagnant pools when they receded. The pools are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry the infection.

Director of Health Services at New Delhi's Municipal Corporation, K. Tiwari, explains saying, "This year we had much more rain than what usually used to occur, and because of that much more rain, you have very high humidity, the temperature is also very moderate. All these things are in favor of mosquito breeding, increase in the life of the mosquitoes, and in favor of transmission of the disease also." In the Indian capital, health authorities have established a round-the-clock monitoring unit to cope with dengue cases flooding government hospitals and clinics every day. Vacations of government medical staff have been canceled, and private doctors are being trained to cope with the disease to reduce the number of deaths.

More cases are appearing in the south of India, where humidity levels are higher than in the north. The southern state of Kerala has recorded more than 3,000 cases so far.

This week, Delhi's civic authorities began spraying insecticides in residential areas where dengue cases are being reported.

"Since the disease is transmitted by a mosquito, and the mosquito breeds in the house, so we think if the adult mosquito is killed transmission will be over. And that is why we are trying insecticide spray in the houses," Mr. Tiwari explains.

The World Health organization estimates the disease affects about 100 million people every year worldwide, mostly in tropical areas.