The Delhi government’s preliminary findings on what caused 12 chikungunya-related deaths in city hospitals is likely to be sent to the Union Health Ministry on Friday.
“The Delhi government is conducting an independent investigation on the cause of the deaths. We have spoken to the Delhi government, and sought the investigation report. We will get some parts of the report by Friday, which will clear the air somewhat,” said a senior official from the Union health ministry.
The Delhi government is examining if chikungunya infection killed people or if they died of complications not related to the mosquito-borne infection.
The infection is known to cause complications and lead to death in the elderly.
Even after the death of 12 people over past one month, both the Centre and the state government are clueless on how to certify the death a person who died of complications caused by chikungunya infection.
The Centre says it is for the Delhi government to investigate why people with chikungunya are dying but the state says it doesn’t have the expertise to conduct an in-depth investigation, and would need technical support.
The health ministry denies having received any request for help.
“We would certainly help if asked for it. So far, we have not received any such requests from the Delhi government. They are conducting an independent investigation,” said the health ministry official.
The growing number of deaths in people diagnosed with chinkungunya has experts worried. The World Health Organisation issued a statement on Thursday, saying chikungunya is also outbreak-prone like dengue.
“We can’t call these chikungunya deaths per se as there’s no concrete evidence they died of the disease. Most of these patients were in their 60s, 70s and 80s, with co-morbid conditions such as diabetes, kidney problem, hypertension etc.,” said Dr DS Rana, chairman, Ganga Ram Hospital.
The hospital reported five deaths due to multi-organ failure in chikungunya positive patients.
“We never said the deaths were due to chikungunya. They may or may not have died of the viral infection, we don’t really know. The cause needs to be investigated,” said Dr Rana.
During the 2006 chikungunya outbreak, deaths were reported from Kerala that National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) had begun investigating.
“There was no outbreak after that and studies can’t be done in an artificial environment. Our teams are working on the subject,” said Dr AC Dhariwal, director, NVBDCP.
Dengue can be contracted through four viral strains while chikungunya is caused only by one strain.
The disease was largely limited to south India. But with an explosive outbreak in Delhi this year, experts are suspecting variation in the strain that is infecting people in the north, who don’t have immunity against the disease.
“Also, in dengue cases, some strains are more virulent than other ones. The number of rising cases of chikungunya this year after the 2006 spike could be due to an evolution in its strain, which needs to be studied,” said Dhariwal.
The latest person to succumb at Ganga Ram is a 75-year-old who had tested positive for chikungunya on Thursday morning.
Five died in Indraprastha Apollo, one each in All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Hindu Rao Hospital.