Indian health officials have struggled to allay domestic concerns about dengue fever even as the country scrambles to finish construction projects in time for the Commonwealth Games, which will take place here in less than a month.
India is expecting 8,000 athletes and team officials from 71 countries and territories for the games, which bring together nations that were formerly part of the British Commonwealth. Delays and allegations of corruption have already marred India’s preparations, and the dengue outbreak is just the latest concern for Indian officials, partly because the athletes’ quarters will be near a breeding ground for the mosquitoes that spread the disease.
Some countries like Australia and New Zealand have issued travel warnings regarding the outbreak, while The Mirror reported in Britain that the head of England’s delegation had told his team managers that any athlete was “free to withdraw from the team at any point” over health concerns.
Dr. Chusak Prasttisur, the Southeast Asia coordinator of communicable disease for the World Health Organization, expressed concerns that the worst of the epidemic was to come. Dengue in India will peak in coming month, he said.
But K. Sujatha Rao, the health secretary, said Friday that the number of cases in New Delhi this year was no higher than usual.
“It is not a runaway epidemic,” Ms. Rao said at a news conference. “It is very much under control.”
Dengue is a seasonal, sometimes fatal viral disease transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, which bites during the day. The season’s outbreak is expected to last until the end of October.
“I will never promise that Delhi will be free of dengue, but it will be very, very minimal,” Ms. Rao said Friday.
Ms. Rao said that none of the Commonwealth Games sites had reported any dengue cases and all have been under surveillance for last two years. The Commonwealth Games village, where athletes will be housed, is on the banks of the Yamuna River.
Ms. Rao said that if Commonwealth Games were not happening, little attention would have been paid to Delhi’s dengue outbreak this year. She also said that more cases are reported have been reported from middle-class and upper-class residential areas.
But private doctors and some health officials have also contended that the number of confirmed cases of dengue is being severely underreported. Dr. R. K. Srivastav, director general of health services said, “There will be a large number of milder forms of dengue,” which he said patients were less likely to report.
V. K. Monga, chairman of Delhi Municipal Corporation’s health committee, said Friday that delays in the games projects had contributed to the high number of dengue cases.
“Games projects have been delayed and as a result the diggings carried out have turned into mosquito breeding grounds,” Mr. Monga told Agence France-Presse.