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September 20, 2019

Dengue peril


September 20, 2019

The annual dengue fever assault has been especially virulent this year. The largest number of cases have been reported from Karachi where according to a spokesperson for the anti-dengue programme the number of dengue victims now exceeds 2000. Eight people have died in the city as a result of the virus borne by the Aedes Egypti mosquito. Karachi however is not affected alone. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at least 1600 people have been infected with the virus and according to the health department there are 61 cases of confirmed dengue in Peshawar hospitals. Other cases continue to be reported form Swat, Mardan, Shangla, Buner and other places. As per the media, 1869 cases have been reported in Punjab over the last 24 hours. Two deaths have also taken place during the last 24 hours at a Rawalpindi hospital. The cases in Punjab are continuing to increase rapidly and health experts have expressed extreme concern over the situation. Former Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif has also asked why the policy that had been put in place to combat dengue had not been adopted this year leaving people in the grips of a disease that is usually treatable but can cause death.

The scourge of dengue has now become an annual event in the country following the monsoon season. This year it has been widespread and has affected all four provinces. Doctors say lower temperatures will kill of the mosquito which carries dengue. But obviously there are still many weeks before temperatures fall far enough in most parts of the country for this to happen. Inspection of buildings in Lahore have also shown locations where the breeding of mosquitoes is widespread and is source of danger. After many years during which we have faced the issue of dengue it is time to adopt a strategy that can defeat the disease. Some countries, including Singapore and to a considerable extent Malaysia, have succeeded in this. Pakistan seems to be slowing heading in the same direction through fumigation campaign and inspections to wipe out places where mosquitoes could breed. There appears to have been some letup in that effort this year. The results are already before us.

More and more cases of death due to dengue are continuing to come in. As dengue symptoms can resemble those of ordinary flu we do not know how many other cases there may be especially in rural areas and smaller towns where testing facilities do not exist. The lack of awareness among people about dengue is also an issue although this has improved over the recent years as a result of media campaigns and door to door visits. The problem has to be brought under control. There is no further time to wait and we must not allow people to die painful deaths from a disease that can be prevented.

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