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November 19, 2019

WHO scales up response to dengue surge in Pakistan


November 19, 2019

KARACHI: World Health Organisation is working with local health officials, as well as those from several other countries to strengthen dengue outbreak alert systems and improve vector control strategies to halt the spread of the virus.

According to WHO officials, besides Pakistan, numerous countries in Asia, the Americas and Africa are reporting a higher incidence of dengue than previous years. The rise in outbreaks during current year was said to be a wake-up call for governments, policymakers and researchers to strengthen surveillance and control programmes and to step up prevention strategies to control this phenomenal spread of dengue and other vector-borne viruses.

The frequency of dengue outbreaks has grown dramatically around the world in recent decades and is currently the fastest spreading mosquito-borne viral disease in the world. Known to exist in only nine countries in the 1970s, dengue is now endemic in 128 countries and strikes as many as 96 million people each year, according to global data collected by WHO.

Dr Raman Velayudhan, coordinator of WHO’s vector management programme in Geneva announced that unprecedented surge in dengue epidemics across the globe in recent decades prompted WHO at the start of 2019 to include the virus in its list of the world’s top 10 public health threats.

WHO was said to be working with governments and health partners to scale up the global response to the escalation of dengue outbreaks through national vector control programmes aligned with WHO’s global vector control response strategy.

The strategy aims to strengthen vector control worldwide through heightened surveillance and monitoring of Aedes mosquitoes and other mosquito-borne viruses. It also aims to reinforce laboratories and community interventions to prepare for and respond swiftly to outbreaks of mosquito-borne viruses.

Under the approach to engage local communities the Pakistan government was said to be supported in its extensive community awareness campaign coupled with arrangements to set up mobile medical camps in various neighbourhoods, distribution of mosquito nets and insect repellents to residents, and provision of free clinical services to dengue patients.

The Pakistan government was appreciated to have set up a special task force to lead response activities across the country, with the support of the National Institute of Health, aimed at providing technical assistance and laboratory services to ascertain the dengue virus serotypes circulating in the various geographical zones.

The WHO office in Pakistan was said to have also donated anti-mosquito fogging equipment, along with thousands of flyers, posters, banners and brochures distributed in schools, railway stations and other public places to provide information to explain the dengue virus and its symptoms.

The campaign messages provide contact information for medical assistance at the onset of dengue symptoms and highlight ways to prevent mosquitoes from breeding — such as by emptying any containers storing water, where mosquitoes like to breed and avoiding mosquito bites through proper clothing and use of mosquito repellent and bed nets.

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