Meena Devi moved to Delhi to join her 27-year-old son, Sachin. He wanted his mother to stay with him so that he could look after her. But their happy reunion was cut short. Sachin died of dengue fever.
“He was happy and healthy and one day he suddenly complained of a fever. I took him to the hospital and the doctors gave him some medicine and said he would be fine. But the fever did not come down. Then he started having pain in the abdomen and loose motions. The doctors did not allow me to stay in the hospital and the next day he died. I lost him… I lost my son, the support of my old age. I can’t live without him,” she said.
According to the government more than 30 people have died of the disease so far this year while nearly 5,000 others are affected.
But Delhi’s former Health Minister Kiran Walia believes the real number is higher. “If you just take the figures that the private doctors and nursing homes are talking about where each one is dealing with more than a thousand patients that alone makes it clear that figures provided by the government is totally misleading.”
Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral fever caused by the dengue virus. An estimated 50-100 million dengue infections occur globally every year. About 70 percent of such cases are found in Asia, and India alone accounts for half of them.
According to healthcare professionals this has been the worst outbreak of the disease yet in New Delhi.
“My personal experience is that dengue this time is very aggressive. It is a different strain, which is going on around and the mortality rate is very high. This time we have seen much more surge of patients than we had prepared for,” Shalini Pandey, a pediatrician, said.
Hospitals are overcrowded and the government has arranged hundreds of extra beds in each hospital. But in most hospitals multiple patients are sharing a single bed or being treated on the floor.
Doctors say lack of awareness about the disease is creating panic among the public and putting unbearable strain on hospitals.
MC Mishra is the director of New Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences. “We have a heavy influx of patients in the emergency departments. Not every dengue patient requires admission in the hospital.”
The government has cancelled the leave of all doctors and paramedical staff. And hospitals have been told not to turn away any dengue patients without proper treatment. The charge of dengue testing is being provided free at government hospitals.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejrival says they are doing their best to deal with the emergency.
“It is a difficult situation and the Delhi government, all our ministers and officers, including myself are doing everything possible to fight this deadly disease. All of us are available round the clock for the general public to help them in whichever way possible,” he said.
But many say it’s too little too late. Sanjay Bagga is a former member of the Medical council of India.
“This is something which we knew is going to happen at this time of the year. We don’t see the kind of preparedness either in clearing the mess of the infrastructure or the open drains and dug up roads. Half of Delhi is completely dug up. Senselessly and needlessly, the drains are blocked and the sanitation is in shambles. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg; we are seeing the external manifestation but not curing the actual etiology of the disease,” Bagga said.