posted on Tue, Oct 16 '18 under tag: science

Academic papers must be written with due regard to authenticity. When done in a hurry, there usually are errors that creep in. Like this one.

Today morning twitter highlighted an article about “how preventable diseases in India are expensive for patients and also on the rise” and how this “shows a failure of both public and private sector”. I wrote down a response to this article.

One of the points was that the quoted figure on the cost is wrong. Here is an excellent game of Chinese whispers told in reverse.

Why is the easily treatable dengue making a profit in India?: “In India, dengue is endemic in almost all states and is the leading cause of hospitalization, with many patients leaving the hospital having paid anywhere between USD$ 514 and USD$1491 for treatment.”

Let us read the source.

Economic burden of dengue fever on households in Hisar district of Haryana state, India: “The overall cost of non-fatal ambulatory patients averaged US$ 514 (31,868 INR), while the cost of non-fatal hospitalized cases averaged US$ 1491 (92,504 INR)”

Now, though there is no inline citation, the citation that follows this sentence is to Suaya JA, Shepard DS, Siqueira JB, Martelli CT, Lum LC, Tan LH, et al. Cost of dengue cases in eight countries in the Americas and Asia: A prospective study. Am J Trop Med Hyg 2009;80:846-55

Let us read the source, again.

Cost of dengue cases in eight countries in the Americas and Asia: a prospective study: “Overall mean costs were I$514 and I$1,394 for an ambulatory and hospitalized case, respectively.”

The costs here are mentioned in International Dollars which is not the same as US dollar. There is also an error in the number quoted for the hospitalized case.

The actual values are US$248 and US$571 respectively.

Errors are unavoidable. Nobody writes code without bugs. Propogation of errors make them more powerful. How to avoid it? Read the source, Luke

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