Like every year, the approach of the monsoon season in Pakistan portends a spike in cases of dengue. The disease, which has been termed the fastest spreading tropical disease by the WHO, causes an epidemic in Pakistan every year. So far this year, 259 cases have been reported in Sindh alone and the disease has claimed three lives, according to the Dengue Surveillance Cell. And, all this before the start of the heavy monsoon rains, which lead to an increase in the breeding of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.
Meanwhile, the response of the health authorities in Sindh has been inadequate to say the least. According to a news report in The Express Tribune, few steps have been taken to ensure protection against dengue. Isolation wards for dengue patients have yet to be set up at hospitals and no steps seem to have been taken to ensure that dengue diagnostic and treatment kits are available in adequate numbers. Fumigation and spraying have not been witnessed. In stark contrast, anti-dengue drives are being conducted with vigour in Lahore and Islamabad, where the health authorities are focusing on destroying mosquito breeding sites. But in Sindh, the Dengue Surveillance Cell claims that its only job is to monitor data and it does not have the resources to fight dengue. It is condemnable that no health body has emerged to tackle dengue, neither have any awareness drives been launched to enable citizens to take preventive measures. Last year, the dengue awareness campaign distributed pamphlets across the province, but with KMC officials on strike because of non-payment of salaries, it is unclear when the drive can be started.
The government needs to get its act together before precious lives are lost to a deadly disease. An anti-dengue campaign must be conducted on a war footing now, otherwise an outbreak is imminent. Prevention is, however, the best course and citizens are advised to use mosquito repellants and wear clothing that fully covers the skin to prevent mosquito bites.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2013.
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