LAHORE, May 29: At a time when the health department is yet to come up with a comprehensive strategy to combat measles in Punjab, gastroenteritis/diarrhoea has hit the province hard.

According to health department data, a total number of gastro/diarrhoea patients in Punjab have reached 800,306, including 45,766 in Lahore alone since January.

Quoting the figures, a senior officer told Dawn that an estimated 6,000 gastro patients were daily reporting to public sector hospitals of Punjab these days.

He said over 3,000 gastro patients were reported in the provincial capital during the last two days. A majority of them were under five-year-old children who contracted the viral disease.

Surprisingly, the officially compiled reports did not include data of those patients who have been visiting hundreds of private health facilities at street level that showed that the number might be double, he said.

“The department, however, is still reluctant to declare outbreak of the disease despite knowing that the number of private patients was many times more as compared to the officially announced,” he said.

The official said Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Director Mubashar Malik was also among the affected. He was diagnosed as gastroenteritis patient with diarrhoea complications.

Dr Malik is a key official among others who were assigned task for controlling and monitoring infectious diseases like gastroenteritis after reports emerged that the hospitals’ emergencies were flooded with patients.

He said of the total gastro cases, 411,774 were under five-year-old children and 388,532 were adult. A majority of them were reported in Faisalabad, Lahore and Kasur districts, the official said.

In Faisalabad, 40,916 under five-year-old children and 35,036 adults suffered from gastro disease, 29,651 under five-year-old children and 16,115 adults in Lahore and 24,614 under five-year-old children and 23,405 adults contracted the disease in Kasur district.

Medical experts say sale of unhygienic food, fruits and drinks have been the major cause of infectious diseases. A major chunk of the officially received complaints of the people was about the non-chlorinated public water supply in the extremely hot weather which is said to be a potential source of viral diseases. Besides, the doctors also term loadshedding a contributing factor.

The official said: “The emergency departments of all the teaching hospitals in Lahore are facing space problem since the water-borne diseases have outnumbered the others. A huge rush of patients was witnessed especially at the Mayo, Services and Lahore General Hospital.”

The official said the Jinnah Hospital had no intravenous (IV) fluids in the stock which was said to be an important one for the treatment of almost every gastro patient visiting there with vomiting and dehydration.

He said the department had alerted the provincial and district level epidemic control committees. “It has also issued guidelines to executive districts officers (health), DCOs, principals of autonomous institutions and medical superintendents of hospitals to curtail the infectious diseases. The DCOs have been instructed to impose Section 144 on their respective areas to stop sale of unhygienic food and get samples of food and water particularly at hotels, restaurants, ice-cream bars and juice shops for test.”

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