The dengue outbreak in the city has most affected residents of the Defence Housing Authority and Model Town, said a government expert.
The virus was not expected to hit Pakistan this year, indicating that its pattern of infection has changed and it is getting stronger, said Dr Tayyba Ijaz, who is a PhD in microbiology and infection control officer at the Mayo Hospital Microbiology Diagnostic and Research Lab.
“This virus is getting stronger and stronger and if we just stick to fumigation and anti-mosquito sprays we are going to have thousands and thousands of patients suffering from dengue,” she said.
According to Health Department data, there were outbreaks in Lahore in 2006, 2008, and 2010, but not in 2007 and 2009, so health experts were not expecting many cases this year.
Dr Ijaz said residents of DHA were the first diagnosed with dengue this year.
“The areas which have greenery and where water accumulates in green belts and over trees are more likely to have a dengue infection among residents,” she said.
She said a baseline analysis of the cases was needed to evaluate the existing situation. “It has become endemic now. In previous years it was reported in November but this year it is September and the figures are higher. We don’t know what figures will be reported next month. We need to have a disease tracking and early warning system,” she said.
Dr Ijaz said lab facilities also needed to be improved. “We don’t have a virus culture lab. Without such a lab we cannot isolate the pathogen and make a vaccine against it. There is no treatment and all we can do is patient handling.
We should also work on preventive measures, beyond just covering water pots and doing anti-mosquito sprays,” she added.
She said the record of patients showed that the areas where fumigation had been completed were still showing high numbers of patients suffering from dengue, she said.
Dr Ijaz said there was a very good surveillance system for livestock diseases in place and this could be replicated. “We should have our own biological banking system so there is a record of all the viruses in our country.
Then we can collaborate with international labs to learn more about these viruses,” she added.
She suggested that Pakistani scientists be sent for training by Malaysian scientists who have developed a novel technique for destroying mosquito larvae. “They have engineered mosquitoes that can’t carry the dengue virus,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2011.
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