ISLAMABAD: The instance of malaria may increase to two million cases in flood-hit areas as the season of mosquito breeding approaches, health authorities fear.
“By comparison, last year’s estimated figures show that 1.3 to 1.5 million cases of malaria were reported across Pakistan for the whole year,” Naeem Durrani, Merlin’s malaria expert in Pakistan, told The Express Tribune. “This year, however, the situation is worse and the number of cases in flood-hit areas alone might reach up to two million.”
In the breeding or transmission period, which begins in September and goes on till October, mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. Following the floods, many areas are still inundated with water, which means that the transmission period for mosquitoes will be more intense than ever.
However, Durrani said, the situation was expected to improve by the end of the year. “Transmission period begins to die out by November. Some northern areas may become better but, due to climatic conditions, Sindh will still remain a major concern,” Durrani said.
Diagnosing malaria can be complicated as two types of malaria cases have been reported in Pakistan. The first is mild malaria and the second is cerebral malaria, which is less frequent but more dangerous. Therefore, authorities say, even mild fever needs to be checked to diagnose whether malaria parasite is present in the blood.
Malaria, although fatal, can be treated and medicines are available. “Some medicines are being imported as both infections have separate treatments and need to be addressed as soon as possible,” Dr Guido Sabapinelli, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) representative in Pakistan, said.
The disease is also preventable and measures have been taken. “So far, shelter and houses have been fumigated for prevention of Malaria. The process has to be repeated after six months but we are hoping that by then, the problem will cease to exist and people will go back home,” Sabapinelli said. The WHO is also distributing about 150,000 mosquito nets across flood-hit provinces and the need and demand is high in Punjab and Sindh, Sabapinelli said.
But due to the lack of resources and also because of the destruction, reaching people has been hampered.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2010.