A day after dengue claimed its tenth victim in the city, the civic body has finally admitted to a spike in the number of cases, as compared to last year.
On Wednesday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) admitted for the first time that 4,000 suspected dengue cases had been recorded at public and private hospitals in the city in October.
Only a fraction of these have been confirmed by civic officials.
“There is a rise in dengue cases this year. We have already recorded 659 confirmed cases,” said Sanjay Deshmukh, additional municipal commissioner.
However, while admitting that the number of suspected cases could be higher, the civic health department maintained only 213 dengue cases had been confirmed in October. This is 12% higher than October 2013.
The civic body recognises only those patients whose blood reports are tested for dengue by using ELISA, an advance laboratory method of testing, and not those who test positive in the NS-1 antigen test, which is a preliminary test used by most private doctors.
This is in accordance with the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme guidelines.
Doctors at private hospitals, however, agree that the actual number of cases is several times higher.
“Only one-tenth of cases are being reported by the BMC. Not all patients agree to get an expensive test (ELISA). All the 44 cases notified to the civic body from our hospital are clinically confirmed dengue patients,” said Dr Bhupendra Awasthi, Surya Hospital, Santacruz.
This year, many doctors from public and private hospitals have also contracted the disease, with five doctors from KEM and Sion Hospital undergoing dengue treatment. In fact, civic-run KEM has emerged as a hotbed for dengue-breeding mosquitoes, with a 23-year-old resident doctor dying of the disease.
Health experts said the BMC was misusing the technicality of laboratory testing, to classify most as fever or suspected dengue.
“After studying the death certificates in Mumbai, we have found that dengue deaths are far higher than what is being reported,” said Milind Mhaske, Praja Foundation, a non-profit that works for better governance.