Dengue outbreak: Delhi corporations caught on wrong foot over data

NEW DELHI: Municipal corporations’ claim that Delhi witnessed less than 2,000 dengue cases and five deaths as on September 12 is totally misleading. Records accessed by TOI show that AIIMS, Safdarjung, Lok Nayak, St Stephen’s and Sir Ganga Ram hospitals alone have treated more than 2,400 dengue cases this season.

These five hospitals have reported about 19 deaths, four times the number of dengue deaths being reported by the three corporations. “The official data is not at all consistent with the crisis situation being witnessed across hospitals. All beds are occupied,” said a senior doctor at AIIMS.

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At Safdarjung, doctors said they were forced to keep multiple patients on one stretcher in the casualty area because they cannot refuse treatment to anyone. “We have tested 3,000 people for dengue in the past three months. Of this, 600 have tested positive. Three dengue patients died in our hospital,” said Dr A K Rai, the hospital’s medical superintendent.

Dr Sudhir Joseph, the director of St Stephen’s hospital, said 600-700 patients were treated and nearly 10 patients died in his hospital this season.

To understand the reason behind the number anomalies, TOI visited the data centre of south Delhi municipal corporation, which keeps records of all dengue cases reported by various hospitals. Only a handful of staff-total five of them-have been assigned to go through the reports sent by hospitals.

“We report only those cases that are confirmed positive from NS1 Elisa test. “Rapid kit” tests, commonly used by private hospitals and nursing homes, are not accepted here. Also, we send our reports to a review committee and they often reject the cause of death citing co-morbidities present in the patient,” said a senior official, who did not wish to be identified.

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Dengue, which is transmitted into humans through mosquito bite, is a notifiable disease-a disease required to be reported to government authorities. Exact data collection is important to analyse the incidence rate and key areas, which require preventive measures, said a public health expert. “The delay in reporting or underreporting of cases defeats the very purpose of notifying a disease,” he added.

Subhash Arya, mayor of South Corporation, claimed there was no discrepancy in civic body’s compilation of the dengue data. “We report the cases given by the hospitals so if there is any discrepancy, then it is in their report.”

On Thursday, Delhi’s deputy CM Manish Sisodia held a high-level meeting with senior officials and directed the three municipal commissioners to submit daily reports on steps being taken by the civic bodies to prevent further spread of dengue in the capital.

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Officials said all three commissioners have been asked to give such information about their preventive steps, like fumigation, checks of mosquito breeding, at 3pm every day. “If they don’t comply with order, the government will take strict action versus them,” the official said.

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