New Delhi is a safe city for the female Aedes aegypti mosquito. For the male, too, but it is the female that bites and transmits the dengue fever that is now common in most Indian cities, especially New Delhi.
The deadly insect may be best known globally as the yellow fever mosquito, but in India it is more noted for the transmission of the four types of viruses that cause dengue, which has become one of the world’s major mosquito-borne diseases.
Doctors are in no doubt that there is a dengue epidemic in the capital region. Most hospitals have no rooms available to admit patients. Almost everybody here knows someone who has been struck by the fever. But, as usual, the government has responded to the outbreak through denial and fogging. And by releasing statistics that make doctors laugh.
The latest figure from the Delhi government is that 1,355 people in the city have tested positive for dengue this season. But, in just the first half of September, one general practitioner, Dr. Nandita Chakraborty, treated 263 patients who tested positive for dengue. “Then I stopped counting,” she said.
The general medical opinion is that tens of thousands in New Delhi have been infected, and the figure could be in the millions in India.
All doctors have to report dengue cases to public health officials, but they get the hint from the government that they need not be so conscientious about contributing to data. Dr. Chakraborty said that health officials asked her “too many questions” and demanded excessive documentation to prove her diagnosis of dengue cases, until she concluded that they did not really want her to report the numbers.
The article raises questions about India's reporting of other diseases: hand, foot, and mouth disease, typhoid, and gastroenteritis, not to mention the encephalitis that annually scourges Bihar. If the numbers for dengue aren't reliable, what about all the other diseases?