Dengue deaths in Mumbai have doubled in five years, says NGO report

Dengue deaths in Mumbai have doubled in the past five years, says a report by NGO Praja Foundation on the city’s health indicators.

There were 148 deaths between April 2016 and March 2017, compared to 77 in the corresponding period in 2012-13. There is, however, great disparity between the Praja Foundation and municipal data. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recorded five deaths in 2012 and 2016. The difference: Th BMC data is for a calender year, while the Praja Foundation data is for the financial year.

Dengue Mumbai

The cases of dengue in government hospitals and dispensaries have increased from 4,867 in 2012-13 to 17,771 in 2016-17, according to the information collected by Praja through applications under the Right To Information (RTI) Act made to the health department of BMC.

Praja Foundation said while there has been a 265% increase in dengue positive cases, there was ambiguity in the way the BMC collects information on the disease as the dispensaries continue to opt for rapid testing kits for diagnosis. Results from these kits are not always accurate, but they are cheap.

“Dengue vulnerable wards like K/W (Andheri), M/E (Govandi), R/S (Kandivali west) and T (Mulund) reported zero cases of dengue, according to the BMC data of 2016-17. But when we asked the officials for results of rapid testing kits, the cases were 5, 41, 38 and 3 respectively,” said Milind Mhaske of Praja Foundation. He said the BMC needs to choose one particular test result to maintain data so that the trend analysis of dengue can be much more transparent.

Praja Foundation also said wards like M/E don’t have diagnostic tests available at dispensary level. “There is an urgent need to revamp and improve public health facilities so that common people can access it. The city’s health budget is Rs3,312 crore, so money is not the issue here,” Mhaske said.

However, health experts said the Praja report doesn’t ring alarm bells as many of these cases could be dengue patients who had complications owing to heart disease and diabetes. Dr Om Srivastava, infectious diseases expert, said there is a huge difference between diagnosis of dengue cases and hospitalisation. “Only 3% of dengue cases need hospitalisation and maybe 1% are treated in Intensive Care Units (ICU). As far as deaths are concerned, we need a death audit of the victims to be sure that a patient died only because of dengue and not due to the other co-morbidities,” said Dr Srivastava.

The BMC said Praja Foundation collected its data from multiple sources, like hospitals and municipal ward and this could lead to duplication of data.

Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health officer of BMC, said although the dispensaries are using rapid testing kits, the figures are reported only after the cases are confirmed by more advanced ELISA and DNA PCR tests.

“We use rapid testing kits as primary diagnostic tools and the figures, although maintained by us, aren’t considered to be the official figures for dengue. Data collated through results of advanced tests are considered final,” said Dr Keskar.