The secret of Punjab’s highest mortality rate in the war against swine flu lies in under-reporting. At 22%, this figure is about four times higher than the national average.
The Punjab’s health department recorded 42 deaths out of 193 positive cases against the national average of 6%, or 1,075 deaths in 20,000 positive cases. Even in Rajasthan, where the death toll is highest (at 265 out of more than 4,300 cases), the mortality rate is only 6%. In the neighbouring Haryana, the figure is 11%.
Sources in the Punjab health department claim under-reporting to be the biggest reason for the embarrassing statistic. “There are serious lapses when it comes to reporting the positive cases of swine flu,” said a senior medical officer, adding: “Every officer wants to show his area as clean on record. It is with every disease and outbreak, which is why the huge disproportion between the counts of deaths and positive cases.”
Thing were so bad last month that, at one point, the death rate because of swine flu was 50% in the state. Health services director Dr Karanjit Singh accepted that the mortality rate was still high, even though the situation was better. “We were also shocked initially; but we took steps to ensure that every case was reported. We will anaylse our reporting system,” he said.