The chikungunya outbreak in Delhi has grabbed headlines but it accounts for just 11% of India’s 14,656 cases.
Nearly two in three people with chikungunya in India are from Karnataka, which tops the list of the worst-hit states with 9,427 reported cases.
Delhi is a remote second with 1,724 reported cases till September 11, the last day to which data is available with the Union ministry of health and family welfare.
“There are no deaths listed because to date, there have been no recorded deaths in India. Some hospitals in Delhi have been reporting chikungunya-related deaths, which haven’t been confirmed by the state. Once they are, they will be added to the national list,” said a ministry official who did not want to be named.
A decade ago, chikungunya caused outbreaks in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal and Gujarat, but now it causes annual infections in almost every state, including Delhi, where complications related to the infection have caused 15 deaths over the past month.
India’s worst outbreak was in 2006, when 1.39 million cases were reported in 151 districts in eight states, but there were no recorded deaths.
“In older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death,” says the World Health Organisation, yet India chikungunya has never been listed as a cause of death before.
Twelve of the 15 people who died of chikungunya-related complications in Delhi hospitals were over 60 years old.
“Even in people with well-controlled diabetes, those who get chikungunya infection show up with very high blood sugar levels, which leads to complications if the spike is not tracked and treated,” says Dr Ashok Kumar Jhingan, chairman, Delhi Diabetes Research Centre in Rajouri Garden, where he gets six to eight people with diabetes and chikungunya each day.
In recent years, the worst outbreak was in 2010, when a spurt in infections in West Bengal — 20,503 cases — took India’s tally to 48,176.