The committee set up by the Delhi government to review cases of death attributed to dengue and chikungunya complications has "ruled out" chikungunya as the primary cause of fatality and said it was "co-morbid conditions" in its patients which led to their deaths.
The committee in its report, which was released recently by the Delhi government, has, however, only reviewed nearly 20 cases. Doctors say that chikungunya is not a life-threatening disease in general, but in rare cases leads to complications that prove fatal, especially in children and elderly persons.
Ever since the first death due to "chikungunya complications" was reported, there has been a debate as to whether chikungunya can prove fatal or not.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain has also repeatedly said that according to medical literature, chikungunya cannot kill, and therefore people need not panic.
Most of the victims were old people, and had some sort of medical history, he said. The review report includes some of the fatalities reported at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Apollo Hospital and Hindu Rao Hospital and AIIMS.
"While we are saying that chikungunya cannot kill we are not taking it any less seriously. We want people to know that Delhi government is adequately prepared and, our hospitals and mohalla clinics are equipped with testing facilities and fever clinics. So, no need to panic.
"Also, these patients who were tested positive for chikungunya had co-morbid conditions, like hypertension, diabetes, or kidney problem. And, so these co-morbid conditions led to their death and not chikungunya per se," a top official said.
Two elderly persons, both aged above 70 and belonging to Delhi, died on September 15 of chikungunya complications at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, seventh to have died at SGRH in the last one week.
Out of the 15 deaths, Apollo Hospital has reported five, while AIIMS, Hindu Rao Hospital and Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute recorded one death each.
However, family of Gulab Chand Gupta (70), from Lajpat Nagar in south Delhi, who died of on September 12 of acute febrile illness with septic shock and multi-organ failure, claimed, "he was fit and had no medical history."
IMA President-elect and cardiologist Dr K K Aggarwal says, "chikungunya can lead to death if complications are triggered in brain. But, generally, co-morbid conditions lead to death in chikungunya fever."
"People should drink enough fluid and wear full-sleeved clothes and should not allow stagnation of water in coolers and other places, as aedes mosquitoes breed in clear water," he said.