The monsoon season is developing by fits and starts across the country, with heavy rain and flooding in some areas and inevitably, the volume of standing — and stagnant — water is increasing. Equally inevitably, mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue are also multiplying as their habitats expand, and the first two cases of dengue have now been reported in Rawalpindi. Two patients, a father and son, were tested positive for dengue at Benazir Bhutto Hospital on July 24. Fortunately, they were treated quickly and stabilised. Others may not be so lucky.
An official of the Punjab health department has said that the two cases were a “wake-up call” for the relevant departments and officials, but a similar situation arises every year seemingly and it takes an outbreak of dengue or malaria to kick the administration out of its slumber when it really should have been proactive and ensuring that a wake-up call was unnecessary. Fumigation and ‘fogging’ are not permanent solutions. The condition of roads, public sanitation and solid waste management are all disease multipliers that are allowed to decay season to season — and they usually are. A casual observer will see piles of refuse around Rawalpindi that are obvious breeding grounds for disease. By contrast, the Capital Development Authority displays a better sense of preparedness and has completed a control programme aimed at places where dengue may be harboured. Ponds and open pits have been drained. Islamabad has been ‘zoned’ into four sectors and anti-malarial squads tasked to locate and deal with the danger spots. It will be interesting to compare the relative rates of infection between the twin cities once the dengue season is over. It is unlikely that dengue will ever be completely eradicated. It is an opportunistic disease as last year’s outbreak demonstrated, with outbreaks in areas previously unaffected. Even so, its effects can be tightly limited with good civic resource planning and management. The Rawalpindi city managers should consider themselves duly awoken.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2014.
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