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August 18, 2019

Flow of disease


August 18, 2019

Water flowing down pipelines and into taps in Lahore, and possibly other parts of the province, is, according to reports, carrying with it strains of hepatitis and typhoid, including the dangerous XDR variety which is resistant to most of the usual antibiotics used to cure typhoid. The reports about hepatitis E and A being on the rise in the capital of Punjab have been doing the rounds since April and May this year, but have peaked with the monsoon season bringing greater contamination of water and greater risk of sewage drainpipes mingling with clean drinking water. Hepatitis can be contracted in the form of one of five strains – A, B, C, D and E. Faecal contamination of water or oral contact with faecal material is the most common route of transmission for all the strains. Shortages of medications used to treat the sickness, which has no cure but the symptoms of which can be eased and the healing process hastened, have added to the problems suffered by patients. There have also been reports of pockets in the city where the disease is especially common, including Santnagar, Icchra and parts of Gulberg. Vaccines against hepatitis A and B are available, and under the current circumstances should be more widely utilised. Residents of areas which are worst affected say there seems to be little interest of authorities in this, even after complaints placed on the prime minister’s portal and other forums. Typhoid is also a common scourge, notably in the summer months, as food spoils more quickly. Medical experts say the overuse of antibiotics has led to the emergence of new strains which do not respond to the usual medications.

Providing safe drinking water to all citizens in the country and all residents of major cities must be a priority. The problem of old pipes which have become rusted and vulnerable to leaks is not a new one. It is also unfortunate that people lack information about the prevention of disease where possible, both through vaccination and the simpler method of good hand washing before consuming and preparing any edible item. In the past, the health of workers in eateries across Lahore had also drawn concern with a large number of them found to be carrying the hepatitis virus. We hope this matter has been remedied and people can be confident that steps are being taken to ensure their safety and especially of children who are most vulnerable to such diseases.

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