The death toll from chikungunya in Delhi rose to 10 on Wednesday after a private hospital reported five deaths, forcing the Union health ministry to call an emergency meeting and ask states to check mosquito breeding.
Health minister JP Nadda also sought a report on the health crisis that has gripped the Capital, which is battling one of its worst outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases.
The city’s Apollo Hospital said five people had died of the viral disease in the last three weeks. One of the dead, a 31-year-old man, tested positive for both chikungunya and dengue, which are spread by the bite of the same mosquito — Aedes aegypti.
Four have died of dengue, which used to be the bigger worry. But this year, chikungunya has taken everyone by surprise. The viral disease causes fever, debilitating joint pain but rarely kills.
The deaths are being investigated by the government.
“We are analysing the cause of deaths as in most cases it turns out associated illnesses triggered multi-organ failure,” said an official from the national vector borne disease control programme.
Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, which has reported four deaths, also called for an investigation.
“These are patients who came to us with classic chikungunya symptoms and tested positive for it. They died within a day or two of admission and the trigger was multi-organ failure. We can’t say whether chikungunya was directly responsible for deaths or not,” said Dr DS Rana, chairman, Ganga Ram. “It requires research.”
In healthy people chikunugunya can be managed at home but causes complications in people over 65 and those with poorly-controlled diabetes and heart disease, say doctors.
There was no need to panic, as hospitals were prepared to deal with any eventuality, Nadda said.
Politicians who have come under fire for passing on the blame and responsibility put up a united front on Wednesday.
LG Najeeb Jung asked parties to rise above politics and “fight the menace unitedly”.