LAHORE: As many as eight new cases of dengue fever were reported in the provincial capital on Thursday, bringing the total number of patients to a whopping 92. Negligence and poor coordination between the health department and provincial and district administration have given way to a full-blown epidemic.
Information gathered from different hospitals showed that four new patients, including 21-year-old Ali Raza, 35-year-old Muhammad Bilal, 35-year-old Fatima and 28-year-old Moeen were brought to Services Institute of Medical Sciences (SIMS).
Similarly, two more patients, 16-year-old Salman and eight-year-old Amna, were admitted to Jinnah Hospital while one case each was reported in Ganga Ram Hospital and National Hospital and Medical Centre. The patients were identified as 44-year-old Muhammad Akbar and 17-year-old Ehtisham.
Speaking to The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity, an official from the provincial health department highlighted that it was difficult to ascertain the exact number of patients as district and provincial authorities are still unable to collect data from public and private hospitals and clinics across the province.
“The previous regime had developed an IT-based solution to monitor anti-dengue activities and record the total number of cases reported in each district,” he explained. However, with the change in government, this system has now become redundant for obvious political reasons, he added.
Dengue first broke out in Pakistan in 2011, when at least 16,000 people were infected and around 350 killed. At the time, the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) developed an early epidemic detection system which helped authorities to predict serious outbreaks on the basis of data gathered from government employees searching for dengue larvae and confirmed cases reported at hospitals.
Taking to Twitter, former PITB Chairman Dr Umar Saif said that technology can help in detecting and controlling dengue. “It [the early detection system] enabled the government to pinpoint and predict dengue hotspots, raising an early alarm, before it becomes an epidemic,” he tweeted.
A PITB official stated that political rivalry and a lack of ownership eventually resulted in officials giving up on entering data into the system, which snowballed into dengue developing into an epidemic.
Following the dengue outbreak in Punjab and other parts of the country, district and provincial authorities have initiated awareness campaigns.
Further, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has removed two deputy commissioners and several other officials responsible for conducting the anti-dengue campaigns.
On the CM’s directions, anti-dengue brigade and vehicles have been activated across Punjab to conduct door-to-door awareness campaigns. On Thursday, a team of 20 doctors from Lahore General Hospital (LGH) was sent to Rawalpindi to address the many cases reported.
Dr Farah Sadiq is leading the team which will remain in Rawalpindi for five days. Seeing off the team, Post Graduate Medical Institute (PGMI) Principal Dr Sardar Mohammad Alfareed Zafar said that purpose of this exercise was to meet the present challenge of dengue in Rawalpindi.
“All available resources are being utilised to overcome the situation and special arrangements are being made at LGH,” he said. He highlighted that separate counters and beds are operating for dengue patients and appealed to the general public to cooperate with officials.
Meanwhile, the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) has held multiple dengue and cleanliness drives to sensitise the public over the importance for hygiene and to adopt precautionary measures.
South Punjab comparatively safe
Meanwhile, on the orders of Bhakkar Deputy Commissioner Farrukh Ali, 18 beds have been added to the dengue ward at DHQ Hospital. At least five patients, between the ages of 18 and 30, have been confirmed.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, District Health Authority CEO Dr Sheikh Saeed stated that teams of the health department have reached the affected areas and are conducting spraying.
He advised the public to keep their surrounding environment clean and to spray down the doors and windows of their houses, schools, offices and shops. Keep the doors closed and make sure to clear away all stagnant water, he explained.
On the other hand, CM’s Health Adviser Muhammad Hanif Pitafi stated that South Punjab has largely remained free from dengue even though many cases have been reported in other parts of the province, including Lahore and Rawalpindi.
Addressing a meeting on implementation of measures against dengue in Multan on Thursday, Pitafi said that the CM was personally monitoring the dengue campaign across the province.
He said that 26 suspected cases of dengue were reported at Nishtar Hospital. “However, only the test results of 10 came back positive,” he said.
Separately, Bahawalpur Division Commissioner Nayyar Iqbal said that no evidence of dengue has been found in Bahawalpur division. Visiting Civil Hospital on Thursday, he said that all precautionary measures are being taken to deal with the virus. He added that special dengue wards have been set up at hospitals across Bahawalpur division.
*Additional input from Rana Aamir Aslam in Bhakkar and APP
Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2019.