Dengue is spreading across north India, with Delhi the worst affected. But is the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) underplaying the severity of the dengue outbreak in the Capital? While the MCD says 497 dengue cases were reported in Delhi till October 1, an investigation by Hindustan Times in nine hospitals and three pathology labs reveals 868 confirmed dengue cases.
Dr DK Sharma, medical superintendent, AIIMS, said the figures given out by the MCD did not give the real picture. "Even if one assumes that there is some overlapping in the figures given by HT — that some patients who went to the pathology labs might have also gone to the nine hospitals — the MCD figures seem to be far less than the actual disease count." The death toll in the Capital rose to 12 on Tuesday as a patient from Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, who was referred to AIIMS, died of dengue haemorrhagic fever.
Explaining the disparity in the number of dengue cases reported by the MCD and those found in the HT investigation, municipal health officer Dr N.K. Yadav said, "Many people are being treated for dengue if they have similar clinical symptoms. But they may be 'weakly positive'. We cannot take these cases into account as we follow international standards and these do not fit the bill."
The government has so far refused to declare the dengue outbreak an epidemic, but it is desperately trying to check its spread. The government said schoolchildren must wear ‘winter uniform’ from Wednesday as a protective measure against mosquito bites.
"Students of aided, unaided and private schools will have to wear full-sleeve shirts and trousers to prevent the spread of dengue," said Education Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely. He also said air coolers should be removed from school premises. J.K. Sharma, chairman of the MCD's Standing Committee, said they were holding meetings with various resident-welfare associations.
"We have also sought the help of the Delhi fire service. Their vehicles will be used to carry out fogging in residential colonies and kill mosquitoes," he said.
Twelve task forces have been constituted for each municipal zone.
"An awareness campaign will be launched," said Jitender Kochhar, leader of MCD House.
Mayor Farhad Suri said the corporation was trying to procure temphos granules, a chemical which when mixed in water controls the growth of mosquito larvae.
"The effect of the medicine lasts for a month. Also, we are exploring the legal possibility of banning room coolers in government offices by invoking the provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act," said Suri.