Monday November 29, 2021

Dengue fears

October 15, 2020

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, it is easy to forget that other diseases continue and still threaten the lives of people. Currently, Punjab has reported 141 cases of dengue. There may of course be other cases of the mosquito-borne virus, which occurs most often after the monsoon rains that have not been diagnosed or confirmed. The test for dengue is generally not available in rural areas or outside major medical centres. The worst affected districts in Punjab are Lahore and Rawalpindi, while there have also been reports of dengue from Islamabad, Okara and other districts.

Part of the problem is that of government complacency. The only way to prevent a dengue epidemic is by taking action long before it becomes a problem. Since dengue mosquitoes breed in standing water, they pose the greatest risk in poorer areas, where sanitation facilities are scarce. While dengue is rarely deadly, the fact is that we have had bout after bout of dengue each year. A patient with dengue who is reinfected the second time, even months later, becomes more susceptible to serious disease. Prevention is the key to controlling any disease. To do so, the growth of larvae and mosquitos has to be controlled. People need to be issued warnings as has happened in the past. This year, the Covid situation has taken attention away from dengue. This of course, is partially inevitable. But it would be unwise to ignore the fact that dengue cases are being reported. People must be advised to stay indoors or take protective measures from mosquitoes by using repellents, insecticides, or other mechanisms, such as mosquito nets to save themselves from mosquito bites notably during dawn and dusk, the time when the mosquito is most active and most likely to bite. There is at the moment no cure for dengue. Normally the disease causes a relatively short period of illness and then dissolves. But there are exceptions. Haemorrhagic dengue causing bleeding from the various surfaces has been known to exist in the country.

Paramedics, doctors and medical staff at hospitals need to be advised on how to act and what to do. Most of all, we need to make people more aware of the situation using the media. There have at the moment been very limited warnings. At schools, while we teach children about safety from Covid-19, we need also to warn them about dengue which may be lurking just as ominously in their areas and in their homes. The issue of water left standing and other protective measures needs to be brought up once again. Dengue is a virus that is controllable even if it is not outright eliminated. Under Shahbaz Sharif's tenure as CM, Punjab had already shown how that can be done. Perhaps it's time to look back and see what can be learnt from that time.