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After smallpox and polio faux pas, Delhi govt sets health report right

Two people died of smallpox and 11 of polio in the Capital last year, said a Delhi government report, which eventually turned out to be a clerical error

delhi Updated: Aug 11, 2017 14:15 IST
Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hindustan Times
Smallpox,polio,delhi govt
A medical staff administers polio drops at polio eradication campaign in Shimla. Santosh Rawat/HT

All deaths attributed polio and smallpox in Delhi last year were removed from the revised ‘Annual Report on Registration of Births and Deaths – 2016’, a week after HT pointed out the error.

The Directorate of Economics and Statistics, which prepares the report every year, admitted that there had been a mistake in codifying the diseases by the civic bodies.

“For this report only medically certified deaths have been considered, meaning all the deaths have been certified by a qualified medical professional. Depending on the causes of death, the data is then codified according to the ICD 10 (internationally accepted method of classification of diseases),” said Ashok Kumar, joint director, department of economics and statistics.

A rejoinder regarding the same will soon be issued, he said.

On August 2, HT had reported that the annual report has attributed two deaths to smallpox and 11 to polio. Experts agreed that it was not possible as smallpox was eradicated from the world in 1980 and India was declared polio-free in 2014. There are only three countries in the world – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria – where wildpolio is still in circulation.

And, this is not the first time that the directorate got it wrong. Even in its report for the year 2015, the data had attributed 14 deaths to polio and eight in 2014. Reports of the previous years are not available on the department’s website.

According to official records, the last polio case in Delhi was in June, 2009 and the last polio case in India was recorded in West Bengal on January 13, 2011.

“This is clearly a case of misclassification of death. Such incidents shake up the confidence in our reporting mechanisms. And, even if the doctors had suspected smallpox or polio, they should have notified the appropriate authorities as these are notifiable diseases. We should not be finding out about it in a yearend report,” Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), had said.

The day after the HT story, the directorate released a statement saying that the two people who had supposedly died of smallpox were from “out of Delhi”, assuring that changes would be made to the report in case of discrepancies.

“After getting clarification/confirmation from the local bodies, the discrepancies, if any, will be rectified accordingly,” the statement said.

First Published: Aug 11, 2017 14:10 IST