Is dengue really on the decline in Mumbai?

Dengue has been one of the biggest public health concerns in the city this year, with the number of reported cases shooting up in comparison to previous years. Though figures released by the BMC indicate that these numbers are gradually declining and the situation is under control, NGOs have a starkly different story to tell.

They claim that the figures released by the BMC only pertain to the cases reported in civic and state run hospitals, leaving out those cases reported at private hospitals and dispensaries. A survey has revealed that only 25 per cent of the city’s population opts for treatment at hospitals run by the civic body and the government.

Help Mumbai Foundation has even filed a PIL at the Bombay High Court against the BMC, alleging that they haven’t been taking appropriate measures to tackle the menace of dengue. At the hearing on Wednesday, all public health departments run by the state and BMC were asked to submit detailed reports about the numbers of dengue patients, and what had been done to curb the menace.

Varuna Khanna, director for Help Mumbai Foundation said, “Our concern is that the actual number of citizens affected by dengue in Mumbai is much higher. It is alarming and that the BMC is suppressing the actual figure. It is evident from the public health data published by the authorities that only those treated in public health institutions are being reported.”

Since dengue does not feature in the list of notifiable diseases, it is not mandatory for private hospitals, clinics, pathology laboratories and nursing homes to report the dengue cases handled by them — hence the lacunae in the data.

Not adding up
There is a significant difference between the data obtained from the BMC and that arrived at by members of the Praja Foundation, an organisation that works at the ward level to collect data about dengue cases. Authorities at Praja Foundation are of the opinion that the BMC’s figures, which do not cover cases from private sector hospitals, cannot be used to determine if the number of dengue cases is actually declining.

Praja Foundation, based on its research and survey of around 15,191 households across the city, has found that only 25 per cent of the population use state and BMC run hospitals, while the remaining 75 per cent prefer private hospitals. It is thus crucial to get figures from private hospitals and dispensaries in order to have an accurate idea about the number of people affected by dengue.

BMC’s take
When MiD DAY contacted BMC authorities, they insisted that the disease is under control and on the decline across the city. They also said that most of the cases reported this year were from wards that house corporate offices.

BMC epidemiologist Dr Mangala Gomare said, “This year a total of 907 cases of dengue have been reported across the city.” 

It figures
No of reported cases on
the Praja Foundation’s records: 1,958
No of reported cases on
the BMC’s records: 907
Difference in number:
1,051 cases

Rise and fall
BMC’s month-wise data for 2011-12 shows a gradual increase in dengue cases from July to October and a fall in November
January: 11
February: 09
March: 05
April: 06
May: 04
June: 10
July: 60
August: 157
September: 242
October: 237
November: 166 

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