The ground zero of a crippling chikungunya outbreak in Delhi is in the backyard of the country’s premier hospital, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Ayur Vigyan Nagar, a residential colony housing doctors and staffers from AIIMS, and neighbouring Gautam Nagar and Masjid Moth have recorded the highest number of chikungunya cases in Delhi this year, according to data provided by municipal agencies till September 10.
At least 12 people suffering from chikungunya have been killed in the Capital this year in one of the worst outbreaks of the mosquito-borne ailment that causes acute joint pain besides fever.
After Dwarka, which has officially reported 20 cases, Ayur Vigyan Nagar, with 18, is the second worst affected neighbourhood in Delhi, where the Safdarjung Hospital is also located. But unlike Dwarka, a sprawling sub city over a 56 sq km radius, Ayur Vigyan Nagar is a gated community with 1,300 staff quarters and spread over one square km.
Neighbouring Masjid Moth has reported 12 cases and Gautam Nagar nine.
Twenty-year-old Bharat Agaria, whose death due to dengue last year had led to unrest among AIIMS staffers, was also a resident of AV Nagar.
Dr Manju Saini, 32, got a high-grade fever in the last week of August and was diagnosed with chikungunya. As a doctor, she had studied about chikungunya in the third year of medical school and knew that the symptoms – high fever, rashes and joint pain – could be managed at home.
However, her condition worsened and she had to be admitted to AIIMS. Three days later, her five-month-old daughter started running a temperature too.
“We haven’t even named her yet,” said Saini, whose husband is also a junior resident at AIIMS.
South Delhi Municipal Corporation head Puneet Goel suspects “the (AIIMS) staff is infected inside the hospital”, leading to spread of the disease in the locality.
Ask anyone in AV Nagar, they would know a neighbour, a relative or a friend who is down with a mosquito-borne illness.
“I know of at least seven people here who have been diagnosed with chikungunya and several others who have fever and joint pain,” said Manjeet Bhalla, 57, a nursing staff at the cardiology department of AIIMS. She herself is recovering from chikungunya.
Bhalla, however, attributed the high numbers in the locality to awareness among the residents “who go to the hospital to get tested”.
The greenery, crammed quarters and overflowing pools of water were said to the reasons for the high number of mosquitoes and mosquito-borne illnesses.
“Also, the houses here are very close to each other, if one person gets dengue or chikungunya, the chances are high that several others would,” Saini said.
Bhalla, on the other hand, blames the water that collects in front of her house from the water the overflows from the over-head tanks.
A malaria inspection officer, who has been in the area for eight years, said, “The residents’ love for greenery is the main reason behind the increasing number of cases at AIIMS residential quarters. This has been the trend for many years.”