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Dengue, malaria deaths being under-reported by the BMC?

mumbai Updated: Dec 10, 2014 00:05 IST
Priyanka Vora
Priyanka Vora
Hindustan Times

How many people have died of dengue and malaria this year? The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) reportedly has two sets of figures for deaths caused by the diseases.

Data accessed recently from the BMC under the Right to Information (RTI) Act says that the two diseases killed 164 people between January and October this year. But the civic body’s epidemiology cell records show that only 12 people died of dengue infection, while 16 died of malaria up to November this year.

Experts said the discrepancy in recording deaths and the under-reporting of these communicable diseases has inadvertently affected the implementation of control measures. RTI activist Chetan Kothari, who filed the RTI application, said the data clearly indicates there is under-reporting of deaths by the civic body. HT has reported 19 cases this year of deaths caused by dengue infection in city hospitals. The figures for malaria deaths at private hospitals were not available.

The BMC explained the discrepancy in the figures with the logic that data accessed under the RTI is obtained on the basis of the cause of death mentioned in the death certificates issued by the treating physician. “Sometimes, the patient may have died of another condition, but just because he was positive for malaria infection at death, the cause is mentioned as malaria, which is not appropriate,” said Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health officer, BMC.

Dr Keskar added the civic epidemiology cell will count only those deaths that are confirmed by the expert committee, which reviews each suspected dengue or malaria infection death. “Sometimes, adequate tests are not conducted to confirm the diagnosis of malaria and dengue,” said Dr Keskar.

However, non-profit groups working in the field of public health have contested the civic body’s argument that the causes recorded in death certificates are not a reliable basis for data.

“The death certificates are issued under the Registration of Birth and Death Act and assume legal significance. If the civic body feels a particular cause is not reliable, it should be corrected and the appropriate cause should be mentioned instead,” said Milind Mhaske, project director, Praja Foundation.
The RTI data showed more men died of malaria in comparison to women in the city.

Till October this year, 65 men had died of malaria compared to 27 women. While dengue infection killed 39 men, 33 women succumbed to the infection. The RTI query also revealed 49 Mumbaiites died of jaundice between January and October this year, while four died of typhoid.