There have been reports in the press that the dengue epidemic — which has left Lahore in a state of virtual paralysis, with people too scared to step outdoors at key times during dusk and dawn when the Aedes Egypti mosquito is most likely to be around — may take on even more dangerous proportions next year. These predictions are based on the fact that with more people already suffering dengue, they may be infected the next time round with another serotype of the disease. This could lead to a situation which experts say is more likely to cause the more serious haemorrhagic form of the sickness.
Already we have a situation where that tiny striped creature that has buzzed into our lives has become the most feared living thing in many parts of Punjab and also other areas of the country. It is still unclear why, compared to other countries which have suffered dengue outbreaks such as Sri Lanka, we have such a relatively high number of fatalities. This matter needs to be explored, given that according to official figures the deaths now run into thousands, while many believe they could be considerably higher. Health officials admit that reports of casualties from smaller clinics and rural areas may not be coming in at all.
The toll dengue has taken on Lahore this year has been terrifying. The thought of an epidemic which is even more severe simply makes the heart stand still. We can only hope that sensible strategies will be devised at a rapid pace to determine how this can be prevented. As visiting experts have suggested, there must be spraying campaigns at the right time. Cleaning up of rubbish dumps and open drains as well as a host of other measures which can stop the mosquito from breeding and creating the kind of havoc we have witnessed over the last few months disrupting the lives of almost every citizen are also required. This simply must not happen again.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2011.