KARACHI: Karachiites may have yet another disease to look out for — chikungunya.
The first case of the new viral disease reportedly surfaced at a government hospital in Malir’s Khokhrapar area. The symptoms reported are high fever and acute joint pain. The Sindh health department will research the disease, which is believed to have spread in Karachi, with the help of experts who will arrive from Islamabad. However, Karachi health director Dr Waheed Panhwar said on Sunday that the disease is not confirmed as yet. “It’s too early to confirm the disease since the laboratory tests have yet to be done.” He added that the provincial health department and a team of the Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (FELTP) will investigate the outbreak through laboratory tests of suspected patients and their detailed interviews.
“Since most of the viral diseases share the same symptoms, such as high-grade fever and joint pain, it might have led to a [incorrect] diagnosis by doctors this time,” said Dr Panhwar.
The outbreak of the disease is caused by the same vector through which dengue spreads and is reported to have affected several patients last week in a hospital in Karachi, said the manager of the Dengue Prevention and Control Programme, Dr Masood Solangi.
According to Dr Solangi, the final verdict on the spread of chikungunya can be given after thorough investigations in Malir and its adjacent districts. “The cases have been reported in only one hospital while the vector of dengue is spread all over Karachi, which is something strange and must be investigated,” he said.
He remarked that unlike dengue, in which platelets decrease to an alarming level, no bodily change takes place when infected by chikungunya.
According to Dr Solangi, there is no specific treatment for chikungunya as it is a virus and is, hence, self-limiting.
However, he explained that high-grade fever remains for four to six days and joint pain for more than two weeks. He maintained that the virus can subside through paracetamol.
The only protection is to protect oneself from infected mosquitoes. Dr Solangi said that no dengue cases were reported in winters some years ago but now the viral dengue infects around 30 to 40 people in the season in the entire province, which is an alarming sign and suggests that the vector has adapted to the conditions. The only way to avoid outbreak of viral diseases is to carry out fumigation drives and to keep the environment clean, added Dr Solangi.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2016.