Kumar, a labourHEN NARENDRA er who lives in a slum in Delhi’s Badarpur locality, returned home from work on September 13,he found his mother burning with fever. He took Renu Devi, 63, to a nearby doctor but her condition kept deteriorating. He then shifted her to a nursing home, where he was advised to take her to Safdarjang Hospital. At Safdarjang,she was diagnosed with dengue.
Kumar says he spent on treatment in the three days before he came to Safdarjang.He had saved this money to visit his village in Bihar during the festival season. It will not be possible for him to make the trip now.He is,however,relieved about his mother’s health because the doctors have told him not to panic and the treatment is free.
Similar is the case of Balwant Ram,a Gurgaon resident. His wife, Vimal Devi, 40, was treated for four days in the city’s Metro Life Line Hospital at an expense of But her condition continued to deteriorate till she was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (aiims),New Delhi.
These patients were still fortunate to have received timely treatment, which is not always the case. Till September 21, a total of 22 patients, mostly children, had died of dengue in Delhi. In fact,the media took note of dengue in Delhi only after two children, Avinash and Aman, were denied admission by Safdarjang and Moolchand hospitals and died on September 8 and September 12 respectively.The city has witnessed over 3,194 cases till September 21,with nearly 1,000 cases reported between September 5 and September 15.This is the worst outbreak in the last six years. Caught unprepared, the health infrastructure in Delhi was unable to cope with the deluge of dengue patients. Despite having witnessed the first case in January—a time when dengue cases are not usually reported—the governments did not take adequate measures to deal with the problem.The dengue cases in January were a result of unseasonal rainfall, followed by dry spell that created humid conditions and allowed the dengue-carrying mosquito, Aedes aegypti, to breed.
The helplessness of the Delhi government in dealing with dengue was mirrored by other states too.According to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, all the states of the country have reported dengue cases this year. There have been over 22,100 cases of dengue in India this year, and more than 50 deaths.Delhi and Karnataka have been the worst affected states. South India in particular has reported a large number of cases this time (see map), with states like Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra bearing the brunt of the dengue attack.Kerala has had the highest number of deaths (19) in the country.Even states like Arunachal Pradesh, which had no dengue cases two years ago, have been hit by the disease this time.
So, is this year’s dengue virus more virulent? “No,” says Rajeeva Moger, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru. “In fact, the overall symptoms are easier to cure this year as compared to last year,” he says. But a few patients have shown “sudden”worsening of symptoms leading to death, he adds. Savio Pereira, associate medical superintendent at St John’s Hospital, Bengaluru, too sees no increase in virulence in this year’s strain.
Apollo Hospitals and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (nimhans) are jointly doing a study to identify the strain of dengue virus in circulation in Karnataka this year. Blood samples are being collected and tests will be done in November, when the peak dengue season is over. More information on this year’s strain is expected by December.The same team worked on last year’s dengue virus and found it to be the “serotype 2”, says Jayasree Shivadasan, consultant microbiologist, Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru.