HYDERABAD, Oct 24: Cases of dengue fever have shown a steep rise in the city between August and October with the Diagnostic and Research Laboratory (DRL) confirming 2,273 dengue cases till Oct 24.

The district health officials blamed ineffective fumigation campaign for the continuous rise in the cases of deadly disease.

Inquiries made by Dawn on Thursday revealed that health officials were underreporting figures of dengue virus prevalence in they city to the Sindh health department’s Dengue Surveillance Cell (DSC) whose Oct 24 report mentioned only 355 confirmed dengue cases this quarter.

“We have received 6,832 patients with the request of dengue fever test and of them 45, 823 and 1,405 were diagnosed with the deadly fever in August, September and October this year,” said Dr Ikram Ujjan, in-charge of DRL which was run by the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS).

“The information was communicated by vice-chancellor of LUMHS Prof Dr Noshad Shaikh to Sindh health secretary as well for preventive measures,” he said.

Dr Ujjan said that if he calculated cases of patients who had their complete blood picture tests done at the DRL which indicated counts of platelet and white blood cells, then the cases would reach hundreds on a daily basis. “The test is suggestive of dengue fever too if two counts shows downward values,” he said.

Officials at the DSC claimed that they were not reporting all the cases of the dengue fever in order to avoid creating panic among general public. “For instance, if we say 355 cases until Oct 24, you can understand the cases will be around 400 but not more than 400 so that people should not get panicked,” he said.

A senior official at the malaria control programme said that it was essential to disseminate correct information on the deadly disease because the figures were sued by authorities concerned to devise strategy for next year for combating the virus.

“If we keep sharing wrong information or underreporting the cases of the deadly disease then we are not serving any purpose,” said the official.

Hyderabad’s focal person for dengue, Dr Ahmed Hyder, is gathering information on dengue fever cases from different wards of the Liaquat University Hospital’s city branch and its outpatient department (OPD), laboratories of Bhittai Hospital and hospitals of Qasimabad taluka and Paretabad.

“It’s true we are not collecting figures from the DRL. We are provided figures by Dr Rasheed Akhtar Memon of LUH’s focal person for dengue who says he collects statistics from the hospital’s wards and the OPD besides the LUH’s own pathology laboratory,” he said.

Dr Hyder puts the figure of confirmed dengue fever cases at 394 till Oct 24 against the DSC’s 355. It was beyond doubt that ineffective fumigation was to blame for the continuous rise in the deadly disease, he said. “We noted the trend during our survey and rectified it accordingly,” he said.

He said the staff could not operate machines in a proper manner, neither could they ply vehicles as per required standards. “They have to ply ultra low volume (ULV) machine mounted vehicle at a speed of four to five kilometres an hour but they drive at a fast speed and the machine is operated without taking into consideration the wind’s direction,” he said.

Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Administrator Syed Barkat Rizvi blamed lack of coordination between the HMC and union councils for the lacuna in fumigation drive “as the staff are now answerable to assistant director of local government (ADLG) under the new local government system.”

The ADLG reported to the commissioner, not to him, he said, adding the September’s fumigation remained ineffective because of lack of coordination.

“The fumigation drive that started on Wednesday is being carried on adequately. It will surely yield results because all the stakeholders are on the same page now,” he said.

The first round of the seven-day drive was conducted in the city for seven days last month in which only one ULV was used in each UC.

The in-charge of HMC’s health section, Shahab Ikram, admitted that the September round of the fumigation was quite ineffective. “The current round which started on Wednesday is quite different as the staff used 23 machines including big and small ones in eight UCs contrary to September when one machine was used in each UC,” he said.

Mr Ikram disclosed that HMC only provided petrol and diesel to the staff to mix chemical used in the fumigation. The HMC staff did not have any training in fumigation.

“These people don’t know how to operate the machine’s nozzle which needs to be opened carefully for effective use. Any carelessness on their part can waste the entire medicine,” he said.

District Health Officer Dr Ghulam Mustafa Abbasi had held the municipal staff responsible for fumigation campaign at his Oct 21 press conference without mentioning the fact why the DHO’s staff did not carry out fumigation as per required standards.

It appears the district health authorities were using the rise in dengue fever cases as a pretext to use up Rs5 million they have sought from the Sindh government. Sindh Minister for Information Sharjeel Inam Memon, who is elected from Hyderabad (rural) taluka, has promised to get the required fund released.

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