Doctors divided over debate on chikungunya deaths in Delhi

New Delhi, Sep 25: Amid debate over chikungunya deaths in the city, opinion of doctors seem to be divided with some asserting only 0.1 per cent people run the risk of dying due to its complications while other medical professionals attribute the fatalities to the vector-borne disease.

"1 out of 1,000 people, i.e., 0.1 per cent run the risk of dying due to chikungunya complications and that too if the patient has co-morbid conditions. Chikungunya is otherwise non-fatal," AIIMS Head of the Department of Medicine Dr S K Sharma said.


At least 15 fatalities due to chikungunya complications have been reported at various city hospitals, including one at AIIMS, while over 2,600 people have been affected by the mosquito-borne fever this season.

"If one analyses the deaths, attributed to chikungunya, being reported in Delhi, you would realise that most of them had co-morbid conditions, like hypertension or diabetes or kidney or other renal problems. Chikungunya as such cannot cause death," AIIMS Director Dr M C Misra said.

But doctors at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH), where nearly half of these deaths have been recorded, say it was chikungunya that precipitated the death.

"Yes, most of these patients were old and had co-morbidity, but why are people finding it hard to believe that chikungunya cannot cause death. There are six crore diabetic people in Delhi, nearly 15 lakh suffer from blood pressure problems, they weren't dying earlier.

"The seven persons, who died here, were elderly people and suffered complications triggered by chikungunya and succumbed. Why are we so embarrassed to admit that these deaths were due to chikungunya? As per WHO reports, chikungunya outbreak in France and the US and South America have caused deaths," Chairman of Department of Medicine at SGRH, Dr S P Byotra said.

Among the remaining fatalities, five of them were reported at Apollo Hospital, one each at AIIMS, Hindu Rao Hospital and Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute.

Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant in Department of Internal Medicine at Apollo Hospital, says, while a debate over the fatality issue is fine, "doctors should not get dogmatic that chikungunya cannot lead to death."

"Out of the five patients who died at Apollo, while four of them were old and had some kind of co-morbid conditions, a 31-year-old man from Noida, did not have it, and died within a day of admission. His death has puzzled all of us doctors here," he said.

Besides, a 22-year-old girl died of cardiac arrest triggered by chikungunya complications at Hindu Rao Hospital. Most of the deceased belong to Uttar Pradesh, including the one at AIIMS, who hailed from Muzaffarnagar, and died of multi-organ failure.


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