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Saturday December 04, 2021

Indifference to dengue

October 19, 2021

Astonishingly, while the Pakistan government and the National Ministry of Health Services have been active in compiling day to day figures on the Covid-19 crisis that has confronted the country for the last two years, and is now beginning a campaign against measles and rubella, as part of an international campaign, no one appears to have maintained any figures on the dengue scourge which is sweeping across Punjab. According to the data which exists, in the last few days there have been at least 19 deaths due to dengue and over 500 new cases reported in the province. The situation at hospitals alone shows what the situation is, with beds previously reserved for Covid patients now being handed over to those suffering from dengue. A field hospital has also been set up at the Expo Centre. The dengue virus problem is especially acute as Pakistan has all four sero-types of the virus, and a patient who had previously been inflicted with one type is likely to suffer a more serious case of dengue when hit with another sero-type. The dengue mosquito is said to be present everywhere. And as opposition figures have pointed out, the lack of spraying this year at the right time has led to a crisis of enormous proportions, with many suffering the crisis in their homes.

Pakistan has suffered dengue outbreaks in various years since 1994, with the worst epidemic breaking out in 2019 when at least 50,000 people were affected and some 79 deaths reported. The disease is causing acute suffering amongst people of all age groups. And the government has failed to take any effective measures to deal with what is a major health crisis in need of the most urgent attention. Someone in the ministry needs to answer why no figures are being maintained for dengue. Surely we have enough manpower to at least know how many people are sick with dengue in the country and what can be done to alleviate the suffering of thousands of people across the province.

We are a country that has become familiar with dengue. Unlike many other countries in the world which fall within the dengue belt, we have not been able to tackle or eliminate the disease from our lives. This is a serious lapse. Dengue can kill, even if it does not do so as often as some other diseases. It does however cause an immense amount of suffering and pain. And this alone makes it essential for the government to take note of the ongoing epidemic rather than ignoring it, and make sure those who suffer the disease are properly catered for in hospitals with well-trained staff.