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Are Satyendra Jain and JP Nadda misleading us on chikungunya?

Arindam De
Arindam DeSep 15, 2016 | 22:16

Are Satyendra Jain and JP Nadda misleading us on chikungunya?

Both Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain and his Union counterpart JP Nadda are on record saying that chikungunya does not causes death.

Jain, relying on his vast repertoire of information - chiefly Google - said that "chikungunya isn't fatal". According to him, all the 12 persons who died so far succumbed to death because of pre-existing causes like old age and/or respiratory distress, diabetes, etc.

Well, when you are flying the party flag in Goa ahead of the assembly polls, and darting back to the national capital only after the crisis deepened, there is little else than Google that you could rely on. Not trashing Google by any stretch of imagination - it is a perfect tool, but a tool's performance lies in the hands of the operator.

Facing a barrage of criticism he modified his stand a bit and said, "Naddaji told me no one died of chikungunya in the entire country. People die directly of dengue. But medical literature says normally people do not die of chikungunya".

That, Mister Minister, is closer to the truth.

The minister is furious at the media. Charging it with showing "selective" visuals, he emphasised that there is no shortage of beds in hospitals.

Do something, stroll down to your nearest one and see for yourself.

chikungunya-delhi-em_091516100737.jpg
Satyendra Jain, relying on his vast repertoire of information - chiefly Google - said that 'chikungunya isn't fatal'. [Photo: India Today]

It is an entirely different matter that cases of dengue and chikungunya, in their milder forms, usually go unreported, or are passed off as simple viral fever. Bringing those numbers on the table would only cause heartburns of ministerial proportions. The old saying goes "united we stand" and come times of crisis, I bet you cannot distinguish between politicians, irrespective of their parties, ideologies and stated policies.

Union health minister JP Nadda came up with his own gem on Wednesday. "Chikungunya couldn't have caused Delhi deaths. There is no doubt that chikungunya couldn't be the cause of death," Nadda said at a press conference.

The central government has asked for a report on the cause of "alleged chikungunya deaths", but given Nadda's assertions, your guess about what shall be in the report is as good as mine.

In all these exchanges there is another lesson to learn: how to pass the buck.

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While Jain slammed the civic bodies, Nadda chided the Delhi government. [Photo: Twitter]

While Jain slammed the civic bodies, Nadda chided the Delhi government saying that much needs to be done. There are elements of truth in both these stands, and ideally, better sense should have dawned before the first victim died.

Chikungunya was probably first identified in 1950s. It was generally held that chikungunya did not cause deaths directly.

The perspective changed since 2007. The Reunion Island reported a major epidemic of this disease in 2005-06. Some 35 per cent of the population or about 2,66,000 people were affected by chikungunya fever and of these 254 people died.

Then Ahmedabad reported over 60,000 suspected chikungunya cases in 2006. Of the 154 blood samples collected, 84 tested positive for chikingunya and of these 84 cases, 10 were fatal.

IIM-Ahmadabad compared the death rates in 2006 with those in 2002-05 for the same three-month period and found that death rates had increased by 22 per cent in August, 57 per cent in September and came down to 33 per cent in October.

The study found 2,944 excess deaths which occurred during the outbreak when compared with the average number of deaths in the same months during the previous four years. The authors of the study said that the excess deaths could be attributed to the epidemic.

Additionally, as of April 2015, over 13,79,000 suspected cases of chikungunya were recorded in the Caribbean islands, Latin American countries, and the United States of America. 191 deaths have also been attributed to chikungunya during the same period.

The World Health Organisation says that while most people have a mild disease and recover fully, some may develop eye, neurological and heart complications.

"Serious complications are not common, but in older people, the disease can contribute to the causes of death," states the WHO.

Last updated: September 15, 2016 | 22:16
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