The victims were: Prakash Kalra (75) from Naraina, Uday Shankar (61) from Dwarka, Ashok Chauhan (62) from Aligarh and R Pandey (65) from Ghaziabad. All of them had pre-existing illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and kidney dysfunction.
The doctors said chikungunya, usually considered non-fatal, caused severe reduction in blood pressure leading to organ failure and death. “At least two other patients are admitted to the ICU with a similar condition. We are trying our best to save them,” Dr Sumit Ray, vice-chairperson (critical care) at Gangaram Hospital, told TOI.
At Bara Hindu Rao, chief medical officer Dr Deepak Das said that Isha, a 22-year-old woman from Kabir Nagar in northwest Delhi, succumbed to the vector-borne disease on September 1.
“She had no pre-existing illness. The woman was confirmed positive for chikungunya through RT-PCR. Clinical investigations revealed inflammation of the heart muscle due to the viral infection. She had a heart failure in spite of ICU care and treatment,” he said.
Reports of a few more suspected chikungunya deaths have started pouring in from other city hospitals but authorities are yet to confirm the same.
“In the 20 years of clinical practice, I have not come across such a spate of chikungunya cases. Contrary to what we thought, the viral illness is causing severe symptoms, especially among the elderly,” said Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, internal medicine at Apollo Hospital. He suspected that a change in the virus strain could be the factor behind increased morbidity and mortality.
Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, who heads the internal medicine unit at Max Hospital, Saket, said there was no need to panic. Extra care needs to be taken to reduce the risk of complication in the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses, he added.
The elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses have reduced immune levels. Their body is not able to fight the chikungunya virus effectively, leading to complications such as secondary infection, encephalopathy (brain disease), inflammation of the cardiac muscle and organ failure,” said Ray.
He advised that families should use mosquito repellents, either in vaporizer form or ointment form, to prevent mosquito bite. People, especially the elderly, should wear full sleeves and trousers while going out in the morning/evening hours when the Aedes mosquito is most active. “If they have persistent fever and imbalance in vitals, they should be admitted to hospital on a priority basis. Most deaths occur when patients are brought late to hospital,” said another doctor.
Chikungunya, which has made a comeback in the city after 10 years, has taken to epidemic proportions with over 1,000 cases being reported this season.
According to a municipal report released on Monday, at least 1,057 cases of this vector-borne disease have been recorded till September 10. However, hospitals are reporting a much higher number. “Of the 145 cases confirmed by our hospital this season, 124 have been reported in September alone,” said Dr Sanjay Mehta, MS, BLK Super-Specialty Hospital.