Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fear grips Delhi as fever spreads

The Indian capital of New Delhi is currently gripped with fear over a virulent outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease dengue fever — and apart from a lot of finger- pointing and attempts to shift the blame, authorities seem powerless in the face of the crisis.

Official reports state there have been nearly 1900 cases and five deaths in the National Capital Region, but the figure is almost certain to be higher as many families decide to treat victims at home rather than take them to over-stretched public hospitals or to private facilities where they have to pay.

Almost all Government-run hospitals are struggling to cope, with television images showing three patients sharing beds.

The Delhi State Government is now waving the big stick at the city’s private hospitals, warning them they will forfeit their licences if they turn patients away because they cannot pay.

This follows a scandal when two young boys died of the disease after being turned away by a number of private hospitals. The parents of one of them then committed suicide.

As the blame-game steps up, the State Government is being accused of cutting back on health expenditure. There have been calls for the Federal Government to step in with additional assistance.

Health experts says the dengue outbreak – the worst for five years – has exposed the inadequacy of the public health system with the number of hospital beds not keeping pace with the rising population.

Delhi is better served than most areas with 2.7 beds for every 1000 people, but that is only just over half the ratio recommended by the World Health Organisation.  

And the worst may still be to come with incidences of the disease unlikely to peak for another month at the end of the monsoon season.

Dengue fever is endemic in India and at the moment can only be contained by the elimination of the mosquitos that carry the virus. India is involved in a global effort to find a vaccine that can directly attack the virus, so far without success. 





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