Hyderabad: The one thing that has been haunting Telangana for some time now is dengue, a viral infection, that’s spreading like wildfire and making it one of the worst monsoons the state has ever witnessed. However, for the state government, the situation is ‘under control’ and there is no clarity on numbers.
There are hundreds rushing to government and private hospitals every week as fear looms large. According to official figures, a total of 2,188 cases have been reported, so far this year. Last year, this number was 1,012. According to the Department of Public Health, the number of cases testing positive this year have doubled, as compared to last year. More than a lakh samples were tested so far this year.
Hyderabad tops the list with 412 cases testing positive for dengue since January, according to the District Medical Health Officer for Hyderabad. However, an official from the Public Health Department said there were 488 cases recorded positive so far.
“It is not about the numbers, we have to look at the overall situation. We have increased our surveillance and are making sure that steps are taken to avoid worsening of the situation. There have been 412 cases in Hyderabad since January,” J Venkati, the District Medical Health Officer, told News18.
However, according to several senior doctors from private hospitals, the government is trying to downplay the crisis. “The situation is much worse. We have hundreds of cases coming in every week. How can there just be 412 cases since January? Our hospital only recorded 270 dengue cases, tested through IGM, in the last three months. We’ve sent the data to the government as well,” a senior doctor from a leading private hospital told News18 on condition of anonymity.
Another senior doctor from a leading city-based children’s hospital said they got about 300 dengue cases in two weeks. Several doctors said a large number of people were coming to them with viral fever, of which dengue is a part. There’s malaria and other viral fevers too.
A man whose seven-year old daughter is being treated for the infection said private hospitals were cramped with patients. He said there were no bed available in these facilities to accommodate more patients. And, the queues at government hospitals were getting longer by the day.
It is mandatory for private hospitals to send timely data to the government. However, state officials said that at least 40 per cent of the hospitals failed to do so. According to official statistics, 530 confirmed cases of dengue were reported in the state in the last 25 days.
In Telangana, dengue patients are added to the state figures only if they have been confirmed dengue-positive through the IGM-Elisa test. The government also recommends that private hospitals do the IGM test and not ‘NS1 rapid test’, which is considered to be less accurate. Health department officials said data from private hospitals was slightly unreliable and they had to depend mostly on government hospitals.
Two dengue deaths in last one week
In the last one week, there have been two deaths due to dengue. Thirteen-year-old T John Winston and five-year-old K Ruthvika died while being treated at two private hospitals. Winston’s family members have levelled charges against his school and have alleged that it did maintain proper hygiene within the premises. With more than 30 children suffering from dengue from the school, several parents have staged protests outside the institution demanding cleaner surroundings and better care for children.
There have been reportedly more than 50 deaths across the state due to dengue. A few media reports suggested the state government was trying to verify how many of these deaths were 'actually' due to dengue before making an official announcement.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Etela Rajender said there have been ‘no deaths’ due to dengue and the state government was analysing the reasons and setting up a committee before making any official statement. His comment came at a time when private hospitals have already declared the reason for the deaths as dengue.
“Officially, we have only two deaths under ‘suspected dengue deaths’ and we’re investigating further,” Venkati said.
Govt in Slumber?
With widespread criticism, the authorities and public representatives’ focus finally seemed to have shifted focus to the dengue menace. Over the last two days, Rajender have been meeting municipal and health officials and holding review meetings on the prevailing situation.
It was decided the civic authorities would intensify anti-larvae operations and conduct fogging drives across the city. Officials were also asked to focus on keeping dengue-prone areas clean, besides increasing awareness among citizens. Health officials said government hospitals will have more outpatient units and more number of doctors will be deputed to attend to patients even at odd hours.
However, the BJP leadership has hit out at the K Chandrashekhar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi government for the worsening situation. “What precautionary measures did the government take? How insensitive is it of the health minister to say that there were no deaths due to dengue at a time when private hospitals have already declared it. There is utter disregard and negligence towards the public health system- and today Telangana is the (country’s) dengue capital,” BJP spokesperson Krishnasagar Rao told News18.