New Delhi's hidden dengue epidemic

MOZZIE WIPE-OUT: A municipal health worker fumigating a neighbourhood in New Delhi. Dengue is an annual plague in India.


    Oct 21, 2013

    New Delhi's hidden dengue epidemic

    FACTORY worker Mohammad Awwal is gripped by fever, sweats and agonising aches that signify dengue fever.

    Mosquito-borne dengue is an annual plague in India and a hidden epidemic, said experts.

    Hospital wards are overwhelmed and tales abound of deaths and cases while the New Delhi public authorities insist that only 3,500 have fallen sick so far this year - with only five fatalities.

    Mr Awwal's mother said: "I took him first to a government hospital. I was shocked to see that it was packed with dengue patients. There was not even a single bed available." She is now treating him at their home.

    In a sign that this year's outbreak could be as bad as the record-breaking one in 2010, the city's largest public hospital, Hindu Rao, announced earlier this month that it had suspended all routine surgical operations to make room for more dengue patients.

    However, Mr Charan Singh, additional director of Delhi health services, said: "It's nothing to worry about, there is no crisis."

    He also dismissed allegations that the city of 17 million under-reports the problem.

    At the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India's most prestigious public hospital, doctors are overwhelmed by patients whose beds are squeezed together like Tetris tiles in the emergency ward.

    Medics, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that they were seeing 60 new dengue patients a day - an influx they suspected was not reflected in the official figures.

    "Maybe it's because they don't want to create panic or because they don't want to be blamed, but if they hide it, people won't know how bad the situation is," said one doctor.