The national capital region reported its first chikungunya death on Monday a few hours after Delhi’s civic authorities confirmed 497 chikungunya and 387 dengue cases over the past week.
A 65-year-old resident of Ghaziabad in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh was brought in a critical condition to the Capital’s Sir Ganga Ram hospital and he died early Monday of sepsis, or blood infection, caused by chikungunya.
The mosquito-borne viral disease causes fever and debilitating joint pain and swelling but rarely kills.
“Chikungunya cases have been the highest ever in Delhi this year, and most clinics are full of people with fever, body ache and joint pain,” said Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, clinical director and director, internal medicine, Max Healthcare.
In healthy people, it can be managed at home but causes complications in people over 65 and those with existing disorders such as poorly-controlled diabetes and heart disease, Budhiraja said.
Delhi now has 1,057 chikungunya and 1,158 dengue cases confirmed by municipal corporations, which are accused of under-reporting infections that reflect their failure to control mosquito breeding during the monsoon season.
Three of Delhi’s 45 government hospitals have reported more chikunguya cases than the civic bodies, which update the data every Monday.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences confirmed more than 900 chikungunya cases, Safdarjung hospital 531, and Lok Nayak hospital 281 cases.
Delhi is reeling under an onslaught of viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, most of which begin with fever, headache and body pains, confining a person to bed for a week.
“This year, the dengue virus serotype 3 causing the outbreak in Delhi causes mild disease and rarely leads to hospitalisations,” said Dr KK Agarwal, national president-elect, Indian Medical Association.
Chikungunya was a debilitating disease but the threat to life was low, he said. “Patients need hospitalisation only if the infection involves vision or the brain with symptoms of drowsiness, hallucinations and delirium, or infections that can lead to multi-organ involvement and septic shock, which can cause death,” he said.
But, patients still can’t get beds in both government and private hospitals. The Delhi government has allowed hospitals and nursing homes to add 10-20% more beds till October 31 to treat fever and dengue patients.
With 1,105 hospitals and nursing homes and 48,096 beds, Delhi tops India in health infrastructure. Its hospital beds-population ratio of 2.7 per 1,000 persons is the best in the country.
“The city is not short of beds, it has three times the number of hospital beds as the national average, but many people are unnecessarily hospitalised. The fact is that 90% patients with dengue and chikungunya admitted in hospitals can be managed at home,” said Dr Agarwal.
Dengue and chikungunya cases go up during and just after the rainy season that normal lasts from June to September because Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads both infections, breeds in fresh rainwater.