Chikungunya may be making headlines but it is dengue that has caused more deaths in the city so far. The mosquito-borne disease has claimed 20 lives, of which only four have been notified by the municipal corporations.
The dengue toll rose suddenly after AIIMS reported on Thursday that nine people had succumbed to the disease in the hospital since September 1.
“The dengue death review committee is looking into seven other deaths reported from different hospitals. AIIMS which has confirmed nine deaths, is yet to send its report,” said a south corporation official, explaining why the official dengue toll remains at four. Chikungunya has claimed 13 lives so far this season. But the south corporation says it is still collecting reports from hospitals. Sir Ganga Ram and Apollo have reported five deaths each due to the viral illness. AIIMS, Bara Hindu Rao and Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute (PSRI) have recorded one chikungunya death each.
Experts say the double-attack of vector-borne diseases is a rare occurrence. “It’s a public health crisis. Early intervention and awareness about preventive measures is needed to reduce fatalities,” said Amir Ullah Khan, a public health economist.
AIIMS spokesperson Dr Amit Gupta said the hospital had admitted 96 dengue patients in the past 15 days. Of these, nine had died and 31 were still recuperating.”Most of the deaths are occurring in the elderly age group who have pre-existing illnesses. The risk of secondary infection is also high,” Dr Gupta said.
Last year, Delhi witnessed a dengue outbreak which claimed more than 60 lives.While the number of dengue cases are less this year, mortality remains high, said a virologist. This year, chikungunya is affecting more people. The viral illness, considered non-fatal, has led to a panic since symptoms this time are severe and 13 lives have been lost to it.
Apart from AIIMS, Sir Ganga Ram hospital confirmed on Thursday that a 75year-old chikungunya patient from south Delhi had died. “J D Madan, the patient, is the fifth person to have died due to complications triggered by chikungunya at our hospital in last four days. He had acute febrile illness and was tested positive for chikungunya by a rapid PCR test,” a hospital official said.
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain, meanwhile, said unlike dengue, chikungunya in itself cannot cause death. “Nadda ji (Union health minister J P Nadda) told me no one had died of chikungunya in the entire country. People die directly of dengue. But medical literature says normally people do not die of chikungunya,” he said.
However, medical literature mentions several death due to chikungunya. According to a report published in WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health, deaths due to chikungunya have been reported during previous outbreaks in Ahmedabad.
It states that during the 2006 outbreak, 18 deaths were recorded from among 90 laboratory-confirmed chikungunya cases in Ahmedabad. Of these, 15 were aged 60 or more, and five had co-morbidities.