Chikungunya killed no one in Delhi.
This was the conclusion of the Delhi government’s investigation into the death of 13 people across five public and private hospitals in the city over the past three weeks, all attributed to the mosquito-borne disease.
“Deaths due to chikungunya: nil,” said the death review committee, which also studied seven dengue deaths. It listed two as “suspected dengue” and rejected one on technical grounds.
The results of three chikungunya-related and four dengue deaths are pending.
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain refused to comment. “The report has been shared with you (the media).”
The findings came on a day when Delhi government ministers and the lieutenant governor’s office were locked in a war of words after Najeeb Jung directed deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Friday night to cut short his Finland tour in wake of the sudden spurt in dengue and chikungunya cases in the capital.
Experts said chikungunya virus worsens existing conditions, much like other infections, and pointed out that when people with HIV, that causes AIDS, die of pneumonia and tuberculosis, their deaths are universally certified as AIDS deaths.
“Any viral fever not managed properly can lead to severe complications. If these complications kill, then the virus is listed as the ultimate cause of death,” said Dr Charu Hans, former head of microbiology at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that chikungunya can lead to death.
“All the patients who died had other disorders like diabetes and heart disease, but chikungunya definitely worsened their condition,” said Dr SP Byotra, head of medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. Five of the 13 deaths were reported in the hospital.
Instead of taking refuge in technicalities to cover up for civic and public health failure, the government should focus on containing the outbreak, the experts said.
“Perhaps, the government does not want to scare people, but instead of going into denial, it must educate them that it is a self-limiting infection that can be managed with paracetamol. And preventing mosquito breeding,” said Dr Hans.
Earlier in the day, AAP ministers Satyendar Jain and Kapil Mishra went to meet Jung at his office following his message to Sisodia, but the meeting did not materialise as the lieutenant governor was not in his office, triggering a fresh spat between the two sides.
While AAP ministers alleged the L-G refused to give them an audience even as they kept waiting outside his office, the LG secretariat swiftly denied their charge.
“It appears he is not in a mood to work today,” water minister Kapil Mishra said.
The L-G office shot back, saying it was operational on all seven days of the week and the ministers did not seek a prior appointment. It also accused the AAP government of politicising the issue when the city was grappling with a health crisis.