The city is fast becoming a hotbed for ailments and diseases. From dengue to malaria and even cholera, sensitive diseases are on the rise, putting at risk the lives of nearly 1.24 crore Mumbaikars.
Official data from civic-run hospitals alone show a 176% rise in dengue cases in 2011-12, while the number of those affected by malaria saw a 71% increase from 2008-09. Cholera cases—178, a rise of 85%—add to the medical nightmare that's been officially recorded. While experts are surprised by the cholera cases, BMC officials admit that it has been kept under wraps as its mere occurrence could attract international travel sanctions. Cholera is highly infectious and can spread within the community in a few hours.
What is even more worrying is that these figures could just be the tip of the iceberg as it does not take into account people getting treated at private hospitals and clinics, according to Praja Foundation that surveyed around 15,000 households.
The NGO in its white paper said that if private healthcare services were taken into account, an estimated 3.9 lakh people were affected by malaria in 2011-12, or in other words there were 148 cases per 1,000 households. The official figure is only 29,828 cases of malaria but there were 64 deaths reported in 2011 alone.
Dr Hemant Thacker, who consults in Jaslok and Breach Candy Hospitals, said the reason why dengue cases have been going up was due to the virus that spreads the disease. "Dengue is caused by a virus, while malaria is caused by a parasite called plasmodium. Though the lifespan of a virus is only 5-15 days, due to sudden weather changes, the virus remains active causing dengue," he said, adding that the BMC has been able to control malaria cases in the city. "But the BMC figures are not representative of the whole city as a majority of the patients consult private hospitals," he said.
"Our report on the state of health of Mumbai raises several red flags. The survey revealed that more than 30% of households spend 11% or more of their annual income on hospitals and medical costs. The survey also shows that almost 80% Mumbaikars did not have a medical insurance. Also, 75% of Mumbaikars use private sources, hence, there is a need for a strong mechanism to collect data from them." said Nitai Mehta, founder trustee of Praja Foundation.
An average of 20,038 persons are packed into every square kilometre in the island city and 20,925 persons in the extended suburbs.
BMC health officer Dr Arun Bamne said diseases like malaria and diarrhoea come under non-notifiable diseases, meaning the private hospitals do not notify the BMC when they get patients suffering from these ailments. While dengue and cholera are notifiable, tuberculosis has come in this category only this year.
"We have not received the Praja Foundation report yet, so it will not be right to comment on the report. We take into consideration only the official figures," said Dr Bamne.
Dr Mangesh Pednekar, director of Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health who has monitored and endorsed the report, said the city needs a better surveillance system in place. "Surveillance systems can provide accurate understanding of the problem. Hence, setting up strong surveillance system should be priority of the administrator and the data process should be scientific, up-to-date and sacrosanct," he said.
*Author: Pratibha Masand
* News story courtesy TNN
*Images courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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