Dengue fever, also known as “breakbone disease” which has no known vaccination or cure, strikes fear into the citizens of India when it arrives with the monsoon rain.Transmitted to humans by the female Aedes Aegypti mosquito, dengue causes high fever, headaches, itching and joint pains that last about a week.
As reported in the Times of India , the death toll due to dengue in the capital city of New Delhi according to official figures rose to 25 with municipal corporations notifying eight more last week. The total number of cases of the mosquito-borne disease has reached 6,486.
However, this article in the Global Health Check states that ‘official’ data on incidence and deaths from dengue fever is inaccurate. The article goes on to state that official estimates of the annual incidence of dengue fever nationwide are a staggering 282 times lower than the actual number.
More than two weeks ago , seven-year-old Avinash died of dengue after his desperate parents went from hospital to hospital for his treatment. After he died, his parents allegedly committed suicide by jumping off a four-story building. A few days later, a second child, Aman also succumbed to dengue. In both these cases, the parents with their very sick child had rushed from hospital to hospital, most of them private hospitals, that denied them admission.It took these two tragic deaths and the resultant public outrage for the Delhi Government to act. It issued show cause notices to the hospitals, it warned all hospitals against refusing admissions and it set limits to what private labs are charging for dengue blood tests.
Dengue fever affects most of the metropolitan cities and towns in India, where the healthcare delivery systems are better than the rural areas. In rural areas, there is a massive under-reporting of cases and deaths.The underlying causes of the dengue crisis include long-term underfunding, poor co-ordination and planning and lack of awareness amongst the citizens and these continue to remain unaddressed. The first warnings came much earlier in the year around March when the officials of the National Vector Born Disease Control Programme had alerted the newly-elected Delhi Government of the possibilities of a bad Dengue outbreak based on their readings of the weather forecasts of the Meteorological department. These warnings however were not taken seriously.
To learn more about the dengue crisis in New Delhi, click here.