The civic body’s epidemiology cell has recorded only 700 confirmed dengue cases from public hospitals in the city this year, but many patients may not have gone for the expensive confirmatory tests, doctors said.
“We only confirm those cases where blood investigations are done using the ELISA or PCR method of testing,” said Dr Mangala Gomare, head of epidemiology cell, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). “Dengue positivity confirmed only by NS-1 test is classified as a suspected case.”
NS-1 is a rapid test, commonly used for dengue diagnosis, while ELISA and PCR are more reliable, but expensive ways. Hence, not many patients opt for it, doctors said.
“The BMC is only reporting one-tenth of the dengue menace,” said a senior doctor from a private hospital. “If I, as a doctor, am notifying a set of dengue cases, the civic body cannot disregard it for the want of just laboratory confirmation.”
According to a recently published study in the American Journal of Epidemiology and Infectious Disease by Parel-based KEM Hospital’s preventive and social medicine (PSM) department, the civic-run hospital recorded 22 dengue deaths last year. These mortality figures are significant as the entire city had recorded only 11 dengue deaths as per civic body.
“The disparity in the number of deaths reported in the city and KEM hospital is because there is no standardisation when it comes to reporting the cause of death in death certificates,” said Dr R Shinde, head of PSM department and co-author of the study. “All patients studied had tested positive for dengue infection either by NS-1 antigen test or ELISA test.”
Following an uproar on under-reporting, the civic body in October released data showing that 4,000 people were treated at public hospitals for dengue, whereas 986 were treated at private hospitals. HT had visited various private hospitals and found that more than 900 dengue cases were reported from around 10 private hospitals and nursing homes.
Gomare said she was not aware of the study. However, she said: “The number of deaths could be higher because tertiary hospitals like KEM get many patients from outside the city, which we do not count in out statistics.”
Last year, India recorded 75,808 dengue cases with 193 deaths, with a 50% rise in the number of cases between 2012 and 2013. An international study recently found that India had nearly six million annual dengue cases between 2006 and 2012—almost 300 times greater than official figures.