NEW DELHI: The receding monsoon may have left the city staring at another dengue outbreak as municipal staff responsible for checking mosquito breeding have gone on strike to demand four months' pay arrears.
Doctors say cases of the mosquito-borne disease that assumed epidemic proportions in 2006 and 2010 have suddenly increased over the last month even though the municipal corporations claim the situation is under control.
But the DBCs (dengue breeding checkers), who carry out door-to-door surveys and fumigation, have chosen this time to press their demands. The 3,200 DBCs are angry as not only is their pay held up but also a proposal to regularize them has been turned down.
The three corporations - North, South and East - together claim only 34 people have tested positive for dengue this year. However, figures from just a few private hospitals show that more than 400 people have been infected. A Max Hospitals spokesperson reported receiving 20 dengue patients over the last two days.
While Max has treated 280 confirmed cases of dengue this year, Moolchand MedCity has treated 52 in the last two months. The hospitals claim they are using NS1 antigen and IgM serology tests for diagnosis.
Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant at Apollo Hospital, said delayed rains may have caused the spurt in dengue cases. "The numbers have gone up but not reached epidemic proportions yet. The numbers may increase, though - a trend seen in the past," he said.
Dr NK Yadav, municipal health officer of South Corporation, said private hospitals were citing higher dengue figures relying on "rapid" tests not accepted by them. "We get dengue reports from 33 government hospitals and about 13-14 major private hospitals. The others do not report to us and it is not even required. An assessment of the disease's spread can be made through available figures."
Yadav pleaded ignorance about the DBCs' strike. "Their pay has been delayed as the funds come from the government. We have asked them to release funds at the earliest, DBCs will be paid by the month-end. But to my knowledge, work is being carried out smoothly."