As the dengue epidemic overtakes the country, six people have died of the disease in Karachi alone whereas 994 have been confirmed dengue positive. In Islamabad, 70 patients are brought daily at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences out of which five are confirmed cases of the disease. Still, health experts believe the numbers are grossly under-reported. Meanwhile, the government has no cohesive plan to battle the disease. This lack of preparedness has resulted in a 55 per cent increase in dengue cases over the last year.
In Chakwal, where five people have died of dengue, the only step taken by the provincial government was to transfer the executive district health officer. Instead of making him a scapegoat, wouldn’t it have been more beneficial to provide some fumigation machines to the district? The district is now getting fumigation machines from an NGO.
Dengue has been a serious threat to public health since 2006 and the government should have a clearly chalked out plan to deal with it. Instead, every year we see the health department waking up to the danger of dengue after the time for low-cost preventive measures has passed. Curative treatment involves high-cost diagnostic kits and mega-platelet transfusion bags for which the health department understandably lacks funds.
Once temperatures cool off in November, dengue cases will taper off. But there is much that the government can do to contain the disease. Extensive and regular spraying in mosquito infested areas, draining stagnant pools of water and covering water vessels are some steps that it can take. The health department should also disseminate public awareness so that people can protect themselves by using mosquito repellants, sprays and coils and wearing protective clothing. But all this can happen only when the common man’s health ceases to be one of the lowest priorities of the government.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2010.
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