First chikungunya death in national capital as hospitals reel under viral crisis

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Delhi reported its first death due to chikungunya, taking the toll from the three mosquito-borne diseases (including dengue and malaria) to more than 10, even as the city’s hospitals continue to be overwhelmed with thousands of patients.

Doctors at Sir Ganga Ram hospital confirmed the death of a 65-year-old man due to chikungunya, which has assumed epidemic proportions in the city. The viral disease is usually non-fatal but hospitals say they are getting many patients with severe manifestation of the illness, including brain infections.

The municipal corporation data shows dengue, chikungunya and malaria has affected 1158, 1,057 and 21 people, respectively. But these numbers are misleading.

“The figures released by corporations are not reflective of the crisis at all. You need to the emergency section of any hospital to understand that,” a senior doctor at AIIMS said. The hospital has 38 beds in the emergency wing but has been getting 150-200 patients at any given time.

Clearly, the city has again been caught unprepared for the outbreak and both the Delhi government and the civic agencies must take the blame. CM Arvind Kejriwal, who conducted surprise checks in hospitals last year, is currently in Punjab while health minister Satyender Jain is away in Goa.

As patient numbers rise — figures show a sharp increase in dengue cases in September — there are serious questions about whether Delhi’s health infrastructure can cope with the crisis. The city has less than three beds per 1,000 people, far less than five per 1,000 recommended by WHO.

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