Disease not confined to poorer areas; more than 50% cases reported from non-slum pockets

Nandkishor Sathe (name changed) had a bout of vomiting after two days of viral fever. A test showed that his platelet count had dropped alarmingly. Internal bleeding landed him in hospital. He recovered only after two weeks of medication and rest.

“My blood platelet count fell to as low as 8,000. The normal count is between 1.5 lakh and 4.5 lakh. It feels like I am living my second life,” said 50-year-old Sathe, who lives in a colony of 23 buildings at Goregaon, a north Mumbai suburb. This colony alone has seen more than 100 cases in the last three months.

In the dengue outbreak in the city, the number of cases this year is expected to cross the 2012 figure of 1,008. Municipal and state hospitals have recorded 892 cases. Twelve people have died so far.

But data from government hospitals does not reflect the extent of ailment. Most patients end up going to private hospitals, which do not report figures to the State. This October, civic authorities demanded these details. The figures they got were much higher than expected.

In October alone, private hospitals treated 1,059 people for dengue. In the same period, civic hospitals received 157 patients. The figures in the private sector are higher because it starts treatment on the basis of symptoms, even before getting a laboratory report confirming dengue.

Temperature variations

“We started seeing a rise in dengue cases from last year. This year, there is a sudden surge in Mumbai, like there is in the rest of Maharashtra. It is because of intermittent rainfall, temperature variations and humidity,” said Mangala Gomare, head of the Mumbai municipality’s epidemiology cell. The municipality called experts from Delhi’s National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme and the National Institute of Malarial Research from Goa this month.

According to civic authorities, this disease is not limited to the “poorer areas” of the city — more than 50% cases are reported from non-slum areas.

In fact, doctors are seeing more cases from areas which see heavy construction activity and even from elite pockets.

“Cases are being reported from overcrowded areas with a presence of malls, construction activity and poor drainage system,” said Khusrav Bajan, consultant physician at Hinduja Hospital.

“The intermittent rainfall is also leading to stagnation of water where mosquitoes thrive. Hygiene levels of the city have also dropped.”

However, he said, although the number of cases was relatively high this year, the intensity was lower. “Dengue patients are being treated in time as people are not taking fever lightly and are going to doctors.”

The NGO, Praja Foundation, which has been analysing dengue cases in the city for the past six years, found that one in every 28 patients died in 2008-09 and one in every 14 in 2009-10.

However, the data analysed, was only of municipal and state-run hospitals.

Last year, the NGO got details from the Railway, BPT, police and ESIS hospitals and found that 4,867 dengue cases were reported. Although fewer people died that year, the number of cases went up to one in 2,555.

Experts believe that one cannot get the whole picture without private hospitals’ data. “You can’t ignore private hospitals especially in health care. According to a survey we conducted, 70% of people go to private hospitals,” said Praja project manager Milind Mhaske.