Sandeep Budhiraja, internal medicines director at private Max Healthcare hospital in New Delhi, blamed city authorities for failing to be prepared and said cases would only decline with the onset of winter next month.
“It’s an epidemic that hits the country every year, yet there is never any preparedness by officials. It just keeps getting worse,” Budhiraja said, adding that Max had opened its fever wards to accommodate dengue patients.
While dengue is painful and debilitating, death is usually rare, but patients are vulnerable to other fatal viral infections during or shortly after the time of illness.
There is still no specific treatment, however, last year French healthcare giant Sanofi Pasteur said that it would begin tests for a dengue vaccine in India, before making it available internationally by 2015.
A leading Brazilian biomedical research institute, Butantan, also said last month that it was working on a new dengue vaccine that they hoped would be ready by 2018.
British firm Oxitec has also created genetically modified sterile male Aedes mosquitoes — what they call “birth control for insects” — but met with severe criticism for releasing unnatural species into the environment.
The only defense so far is preventive steps, like removing stagnant water near residential areas, spraying insecticide, applying mosquito repellent and wearing long sleeves and trousers.
Many victims in India gulp down papaya-leaf juice believing it to boost blood platelet levels, which are decimated by the virus.
“It is a largely preventive, self-limiting virus, but we still hardly invest in research for treatments,” Budhiraja said. “There are only some vaccines being tried out, but no luck yet.”