If leading hospitals and laboratories are to be believed, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is playing down the dengue outbreak figures, ignoring the data on positive cases being sent to it every day.
Just two of Delhi's over 100 testing laboratories have around 3,000 confirmed cases since mid-July, which is much more than the 1,794 being claimed by the MCD from across the city.
Even the grossly under-reported number of 1,794 — including five deaths — is 150 times more than the cases reported last year till date, when the number was just 12. On an average, the MCD has been announcing 70 new cases every day. On Sunday, 78 new cases were reported from the city.
Dr Lal Path Labs alone confirms around 70 new cases each day, while Dr Dang's lab report about 50. "Of the 200 samples we get for dengue tests, around 70 test positive," said Dr Vandana Lal, in-charge, Lab operations, Dr Lal's Path Labs.
"Since mid-July, our lab has tested 1,000 positive dengue cases, and there are hundreds of such labs in the city. Apart from these labs, hospitals also test samples. This in itself speaks volumes about the number of cases not making to the official record books," said Dr Naveen Dang of Dr Dang's Pathology Labs.
Doubting the dengue figures released by the MCD, as many as 24 countries have issued travel advisories, alerting travellers about the outbreak ahead of the Commonwealth Games. Hospitals and clinics, too, are accusing the civic agency of threatening them with raids and challans if they disclose the real figures.
"This is a very critical time as civic agencies are being questioned about their inability to control mosquito breeding. With the Games coming nearer and the Central government stepping in, we are facing the pressure to treat dengue patients without reporting back the cases to it," said a senior doctor from B.L. Kapur Memorial Hospital in West Delhi.
This allegation is further corroborated by the fact that in the past 15 years, this is the first time that the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has stepped in to check the reporting of cases being carried out by the private laboratories.
"On September 2, experts from NCDC came to find out how many cases are being reported every day besides the procedure involved in conducting the tests. This has happened for the first time; our lab has been conducting dengue tests since 1996," said Dr Dang.
Meanwhile, Dr V.K. Monga, chairman of MCD's Public Health Committee, denied the allegations. "Why would we conceal figures when we have already registered 1,700 cases so far? Hospitals and clinics claiming of higher cases can submit their data and we will analyse it," he said.