Delhi government struggles with dengue outbreak

Extra hospital beds ordered and medical-staff leave cancelled amid warning situation in Indian capital could worsen.

    This outbreak has exposed inadequate public health measures and has overwhelmed both government and private hospitals [Reuters]
    This outbreak has exposed inadequate public health measures and has overwhelmed both government and private hospitals [Reuters]

    New Delhi - The Delhi state government is struggling to cope with an outbreak of dengue fever amid warnings that the situation could worsen after rain in the Indian capital region and forecast of more rainfall.

    At least 11 people have died so far in Delhi, and about 2,400 cases were reported in what has been described as the city's worst dengue fever outbreak in five years.


    Experts say the mosquito, which transmits the dengue virus to humans, breeds in clean water and the recent showers might lead to water accumulation on rooftops and other spots.

    Local media reports said the Delhi government had ordered an extra 1,000 beds for public hospitals to treat dengue patients following the suicide earlier this month of a couple whose seven-year-old son died after allegedly being refused treatment at a number of city hospitals.

    Inder Raj Singh, malaria inspector for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), told Al Jazeera on Friday that the Delhi government had the situation under control, and that the outbreak was not as serious as it has been projected to be.

    "It is a fact there is dengue [fever] in Delhi, but it is under control. It is not so [alarming] as the media has created it, and the media are making people scared," Singh said.

    "We are working 24 hours to control it. We do fogging in every locality, in schools, temples and homes. People don't need to panic."

    'Breakbone fever'

    Dengue is caused by the bite of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and causes fever, headache, and joint and muscular pain, among other symptoms.

    It is also referred to as "breakbone fever" because of the severe pain it can inflict.

    The outbreak in Delhi has exposed inadequate public health measures to combat it and overwhelmed both government and private hospitals.

     Leave of medical staff has been cancelled to help cope with the increasing numbers of people infected by dengue [EPA]

    Janet Stephens, a doctor and nodal officer at Swami Dayanand Hospital in Delhi, told Al Jazeera that the authorities were "struggling with the flow of patients at the moment, and the dengue cases are increasing at a high rate".

    "All the beds in hospitals are filled with dengue patients ... and it will remain so until the temperatures drop," she said.

    Stephens said there were many people panicking and forcing hospitals to admit them.

    "We cannot say no to anyone, and this is one more reason hospitals are filled with patients," she said.

    Earlier on Friday, Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, on a surprise visit to the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital to take stock of the situation, said the MCD was not doing enough to control the spread of dengue in the capital.

    RELATED: Delhi faces dengue fever outbreak

    The Delhi state government has been under pressure ever since the couple's suicide.

    Soon afterwards, two more similar cases came to light in which a six-year-old and a three-and-a-half-year-old succumbed to dengue due to the apathy of hospitals.

    The Delhi government's health minister said last week that authorities would take immediate steps to curb the spread of dengue and boost treatment for patients.

    Leave of medical staff has been cancelled to help cope with the rapidly rising numbers of sick people.

    Dengue is common in India, and the number of cases generally peaks in October [EPA]

    Sandeep Kumar, Delhi's minister for women empowerment, has been forced to issue an apology after he was caught on camera threatening doctors.

    He warned doctors that he would take away their jobs and their licences if they failed to treat dengue patients adequately.

    "If government hospitals do not admit patients or don't do proper work, then your licence will be revoked, and your jobs will be taken away," Kumar allegedly said.

    There is no vaccine for dengue, which kills an estimated 20,000 people each year and infects up to 100 million, according to the World Health Organisation.

    Reportedly, in 2010, dengue caused eight deaths in Delhi, while a total of 6,259 cases were reported.

    Follow Showkat Shafi on Twitter: @ShowkatShafi 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera And Agencies


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