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October 14, 2019

Dengue disaster


October 14, 2019

There is bad news, and there is slightly better news. The bad news is that the record of 2011, when 27,000 people in the country were afflicted by dengue, could be broken. Already this year, 25,000 cases have been reported and more cases of the mosquito-borne disease come in by the day. In Karachi, 150 more patients were reported in 24 hours last week in the city alone. The better news is of some significance. The deaths caused by dengue this time are expected to be markedly lower compared to 2011 when 370 people died. So far in 2019 there have been 42 deaths mainly due to more awareness by health practitioners about how to manage the disease, more awareness among victims about the need to get tested and better surveillance of possible dengue patients when they report to hospital.

However, there is still obviously enormous cause for concern. It is quite possible other cases from rural areas and more remote parts of the country have not been reported or registered. We do not know either whether patients affected by the disease may have died at home or in small private hospitals. This is especially true as the symptoms of dengue resemble the flu, usually combined with severe body pains. The largest number of cases, 6,537, have been reported from Islamabad and 5,642 from Punjab. There have also been thousands of cases in each of the other provinces and also others in AJK and other regions. The Potohar region appears to be the worst affected.

The question is why this happened. We are now well aware that the Aedes Aegypti mosquito lives in our country and produces larvae each year in spring. Fumigation campaigns at this time and awareness drives to check the possible presence of mosquitoes are both important. The distinctly marked mosquito usually breeds in standing water, and prefers clean water to stagnant. The failure this year to carry out the spring drive to kill larvae appears to have been a key factor in the huge number of cases which have shown up. The National Institute of Health says the increased numbers are also due to the fact that more patients now get themselves tested for dengue as compared to the past when they are running a fever. However, logically speaking, this explanation cannot explain the dramatic rise over 2018 when according to the NIH 3,204 cases were reported. We all know the danger lurks everywhere. It lives inside houses and lays its eggs both indoors and outdoors. At this point, vigilance is needed to watch out for symptoms. In most cases, patients recover fully without treatment. But the risk for the disease developing its more danger hemorrhagic form needs to be watched for, and most importantly of all, we need to find a way to prevent so many falling victim to the painful illness next year and in the years ahead.

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