Taking precautions: Malaria cases thrice as high as dengue so far this year

The monsoon brings a scare of one virus, but doctors say, don’t forget about the others.


Express August 16, 2011

KARACHI: It was hunting trip that H would remember, not because of the prized catch but because he wasn’t able to enjoy himself at all. Three years ago, the 25-year-old went to Hub in Balochistan with friends. “I was looking forward to the trip but my parents were very concerned I would be infected with dengue and told me to be extra cautious.”

The first day there he began to feel lethargic. “I started feeling very tired and exhausted so when I got back to Karachi two days later I figured I had dengue since it was prevalent at the time.”

At the hospital, doctors also suggested H had been infected by the virus and began treatment. But when the tests turned up negative for dengue, he was re-tested. This time for malaria, which came positive.

Many people associate the monsoon with a rise in the number of dengue cases. So far this year, however, malaria has emerged at least three times more prevalent. “Dengue cases are rising but right now we are seeing significantly more malaria cases,” says Dr Bushra Jamil, who is the chair for the Infection Control Committee at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH). “As a season for a particular virus comes [dengue] people tend to forget about the ones that are already present [malaria].”

The precautions for dengue and malaria are pretty much the same. People should wear long-sleeves and trousers. Apply mosquito repellant on exposed skin and make sure, as much as you can, to keep the house free of mosquitoes by spraying.

For those who have already been infected doctors advise keeping hydrated at all times and taking proper medication.

A, 19, has been infected with malaria twice. “The first time I thought it was pressure of my upcoming exams, then the doctor said I had simple heat stroke,” she says. “But a week later I didn’t get any better. When my parents got a second opinion I was diagnosed with malaria.” By that time she was really weak and was sick to her stomach every time she had to take the medicines. The following year A was in bed with malaria again. However, having learnt a lesson, she was quick to visit the doctor and get the proper medicines. Now, she tries to avoid mosquitoes as much as possible but feels it is almost a lost cause. “You can’t get away from mosquitoes in Karachi.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2011.

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