The number of dengue patients the authorities have been reporting is less than the actual figures because they take into account only the confirmed cases at government hospitals.
Sources said the district civil surgeon’s office collects data from both private and government hospitals everyday. But only cases from Patna Medical College and Hospital, Nalanda Medical College and Hospital and Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences are considered confirmed while the ones at private healthcare institutions are not.
As of Wednesday, there were 488 dengue cases in Patna, of which 323 were confirmed.
Prashant Kumar, epidemic officer, district civil surgeon’s office, told The Telegraph: “The government hospitals conduct Elisa test to confirm dengue cases while most private hospitals and clinics do not. They rely more on rapid diagnostic test (RDT).”
Elisa test uses antibodies and colour change to identify the disease. It is considered to be more effective than RDT.
Prashant said: “We collect blood samples of patients suspected of suffering from dengue from private hospitals. Then, we send the samples to the government health hubs. If the Elisa test confirms dengue, only then we include the cases in our list.”
This extra cautious approach of the authorities has drawn flak because quite a few private hospitals, too, conduct Elisa test to confirm dengue. As these are not included in the government’s list of confirmed cases, there is a significant difference between the figures projected and the actual numbers.
The Telegraph found at least two private laboratories — Ruban Emergency Hospital’s diagnostics centre at Kankerbagh and Gitanjali Patho Diagnostics at Patliputra — that conduct Elisa test. While the officials of the civil surgeon’s office visit the first, they do not even collect data from the second one.
Asked what she thinks about downplaying the number of dengue patients, Nita Jha, medical superintendent, Ruban Emergency Hospital, said she did not want to comment on the issue.
She, however, revealed that the officials from the civil surgeon’s office did not come regularly to the hospital to collect data. “They come every two or three days. The actual number of patients keeps varying because of this.”
No district official has visited Gitanjali Patho Diagnostics. Its owner Sushanto Mukherjee said: “If any dengue cases are detected here, it will obviously not be included in the list of the district civil surgeon.”
Doctors said the inaccurate number would adversely affect measures taken to check the spread of dengue because those responsible for implementing these measures would not realise the gravity of the situation without the correct figures.
Sunil Kumar, the vice-president of the state chapter of Indian Medical Association (IMA) who is also the vice-president of JD(U)’s medical cell, said: “This is a case of under-reporting. How can officials ignore the positive cases from laboratories that conduct Elisa test?”
He added: “If the civil surgeon’s department has set a criteria of conducting Elisa test to confirm dengue cases, there is nothing wrong in it. But it cannot ignore the number of confirmed cases from private healthcare facilities that conduct the advanced test.
“If they are doing that, it is obvious that they are trying to underplay the number of dengue cases.”
Singh said it was very important to have correct figures when the outbreak of a disease turns into an epidemic.
“The correct numbers help the government frame policies to control the disease. Downplaying the data does not help in the long run,” he added.
Rajiv Ranjan Prasad, president, state chapter of IMA, echoed Singh. “The misrepresentation of facts will not help at all. It will lead to more problems,” he said.
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