Six deaths and 43 cases of meningococcemia have been reported in Delhi so far this year, prompting the authorities to sit up and take notice of the rare and deadly bacterial infection. In February alone, 15 new cases have been reported.
According to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, 28 cases were reported in January. "This disease peaks in April and May and cases will continue to pour in till then. We are tracking down the families of infected people and giving them precautionary medicines," said Dr NK Yadav, MCD's Municipal Health Officer.
Experts said that as of now, the number of cases trickling in are not above the average incidence but this might change if precautions are not taken immediately. "As per our records we still have fewer cases compared to last year. While there is no need to panic, the general public must take precautions. People should be aware of the symptoms of the disease and must immediately see a physician if they should occur," added Dr Yadav. The symptoms include fever, severe headache, stiff neck and nausea.
The disease is expressed as either meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, or meningococcemia, the presence of bacteria in blood.
What is more worrying is that the cases are coming in from different areas of the city. According to the records the authorities have, maximum number of cases are being reported from Shahdra, Central Zone and Civil Lines.
"More cases are coming from areas which are congested and there is lack of hygiene," said Dr Yadav. "The number of cases being reported are definitely fewer compared to last year. But things might worsen in the next two months if precautions are not taken now."
Sixty deaths and 441 cases were reported in 2005 while 34 deaths and 486 cases were reported in 2006.