Government officials inspected tyre shops, scrap yards and other potential breeding grounds for the dengue mosquito on Saturday and were told they would have to continue doing so during the upcoming Eid holidays to avert an outbreak of the disease.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, speaking at a Cabinet Committee meeting to review the government’s anti-dengue strategy, said staff assigned to nine emergency response committees, one for each town of Lahore, would work through the Eid holidays. Staff that are absent will be penalised, he said.
“Controlling a possible outbreak of dengue ... is more important than Eid happiness,” he was quoted as saying in a press release. “The staff of all departments concerned will perform their duties, whereas elected representatives will monitor the anti-dengue arrangements personally, during the Eid holidays.”
Some 300 people were killed and many thousands were infected by dengue in an outbreak concentrated in Lahore last year.
Dr Faisal Masood, the head of the chief minister’s advisory board on dengue, told Saturday’s meeting that the preventive measures undertaken by the government had greatly reduced the threat of a dengue outbreak this season. But Chief Minister Sharif said that there must be no let-up in vigilance. “Keeping in view the experience of last year, there is no room for error this time,” he said.
The chief minister said that the best way to control the disease was to control the population of the dengue mosquito, which was best done by the elimination of its larvae. He said sensitive areas must be sprayed with insecticide.
Meanwhile, Environmental Protection Department (EPD) officials continued with their inspections on Saturday, sealing a car showroom on the Gulshan-i-Ravi Main Road after finding mosquito larvae in pools of water that had accumulated in 20 tyres stored on the roof. Two workers at the showroom were arrested for resisting the inspectors’ decision to seal the place. The owner, Haq Bahu, fled the scene when he saw the EPD team approach, said Deputy District Officer (Environment) Younas Zahid.
He said that a case had been registered against the owner and employees under Sections 268 (public nuisance), 269 (negligent act that may lead to spread of disease), 270 (malicious act that may lead to spread of disease), and 278 (making the atmosphere dangerous to public health) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Dengue larvae were also detected at two tyre shops in Allama Iqbal Town. The tyres were emptied and seized by the TMA. In Marghazar Colony, between 150 and 200 tyres containing rain water and mosquito larvae were emptied and discarded. Samples from these sites were sent to an entomologist for testing to see if they are dengue mosquito larvae.
Zahid said previous samples collected from other tyre shops, scrap yards and workshops had contained a mix of larvae of the dengue mosquito and other mosquitoes. He said that EPD inspectors would get Eid day off, while they would work for the rest of the holidays.
Four EPD teams, consisting of two members each, are currently inspecting Allama Iqbal Town and parts of north Lahore. Environment Secretary Saeed Iqbal Wahla said that a contingency plan was in place for another four teams should a serious outbreak occur. He said that EPD officials were collaborating with officials of the Social Welfare Department, Special Branch, the Parks and Horticulture Authority and the town municipal administrations.
Earlier at the cabinet committee meeting, Sharif suspended the town municipal officer (TMO) of Gulberg for failing to check under-construction plazas for places where mosquitoes could breed. He said that mosquito larvae had been detected at the Railway Colony so special attention should be paid there. He said that private schools must be kept clean and any schools where measures were inadequate should be sealed.
The chief minister directed the industries secretary to make sure that measures to control the spread of dengue were undertaken at all factories in the Punjab. He said public cooperation was a crucial element to the anti-dengue strategy hence raising awareness of the disease was essential. He said banners and billboards communicating simple preventive measures should be put up at public places.
He said that rainwater should be drained immediately from low-lying areas. All fountains should be turned off while swimming pools must be treated with chemicals to kill mosquito larvae. He said that fish that eat larvae should be introduced in large rainwater pools. He said that warehouses would be constructed within two months for the storage of anti-dengue equipment. He said the training of volunteers to help with measures to control the disease should be stepped up.
Earlier, the chief minister was briefed by the secretaries of various departments on their activities to control dengue. Education Minister Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, Advisor Salman Rafique, the additional chief secretary, the commissioner and the district coordination officer (DCO) of Lahore, the director general of the Lahore Development Authority and MNAs and MPAs attended the meeting.
The office of DCO Noorul Amin Mengal issued a press release on Saturday saying that the anti-dengue campaign was in full swing in the city. The DCO said that women health workers and sanitation workers had been checking hospitals for the dengue mosquito.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2012.