Thousands of health workers in New Delhi went door to door Monday spraying pesticides to stop the spread of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease that has killed 13 people in northern India in the past six weeks, officials said.
New Delhi's health minister, Yoganand Shastri, told reporters the moves to stop the spread of dengue were aimed at keeping the outbreak from becoming an epidemic.
But if "the outbreak is not contained by Tuesday, we will declare it an epidemic," he told reporters.
Female Aedes mosquitoes transmit the disease, and symptoms include high fever, joint pain, headache and vomiting. It is in rare cases fatal.
New Delhi is filled with pools of stagnating water where the insects breed they can be found everywhere from well-kept parks to trash-strewn lots and health workers on Monday sprayed pesticides and fumigated problem areas, including homes, offices and shops, said N.K. Yadav, New Delhi's Municipal Health Officer.
Breeding season for the Aedes mosquito starts in August, as India's annual monsoon season beings to wind down, reports AP.
"As of now 448 cases of dengue have been reported 247 from New Delhi and 201 from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana states," Shastri said in his comments Sunday. Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are northern Indian states that border New Delhi.
Eleven of the deaths from the disease have come in New Delhi, and two other people died in Uttar Pradesh.
Last year, authorities reported four fatalities among a total of 217 dengue fever cases across India.
This year's outbreak has also hit New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the country's premier state-run health institute. So far, 19 doctors and students have fallen ill with the disease and one has died.
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