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PESHAWAR: The health department in collaboration with World Health Organisation is devising short and long term strategies to put brakes on the outbreak of dengue haemorrhagic fever and take steps to safeguard people against the vector-borne disease in future.

A press release, issued by dengue response unit, said that 1,900 suspected patients were tested on Tuesday for the disease and 372 of them were diagnosed positive.

Hospitals admitted 142 patients that brought total hospitalisations to 381.

Health Secretary Abid Majeed told Dawn that they sought support of WHO to control the vector and put in place long term strategy. “We have also enlisted support of 41 entomologists from Agricultural University Peshawar to identify larva and eliminate it,” he added.

Officials fear outbreak can be more dangerous next year

Mr Majeed said that health department adopted a focused approach and would use larvicidal wherever needed. He said that the department was also appointing 40 entomologists to be deputed at the district level as long term policy, particularly in the high-risk districts of Peshawar, Abbottabad, Haripur, Buner and Dir etc.

“A summary has been sent to finance department for recruitment of entomologists,” said the official. He said that they would accompany the teams of health department and coordinate with the districts to prevent the disease as part of the comprehensive plan.

Officials in the health department said that WHO declared dengue outbreak as grade-1 emergency and was employing four entomologists and a data surveillance officer to maintain record about the cases for immediate response to the outbreak.

The plan devised by health department also includes maintaining line-list to trace dengue patients after their recovery because they remain infected for three weeks and can be cause of spreading the virus.

“We need to do vector-mapping and eliminate larva from houses. The disease is endemic not only in Peshawar but also in Rawalpindi, Karachi and parts of Balochistan due to which we need record of patients,” said the officials.

A strategy on the pattern of Malaysia and Singapore would be put in place where the disease was endemic but mortality was next to zero.

Officials said that the current epidemic, which broke out in mid-July, would get subside itself when temperature went down in October but it could recur next year with most dangerous form where the people, bitten that year, would have less immunity and could face severe internal bleeding and loss of blood, leading to their deaths.

On the request of health department a fortnight ago, the WHO is in the process of hiring the entomologists, who would be put at the disposal of the dengue response unit from September 15.

According to the plan, health department with the technical assistance of the WHO would make plan for the next monsoon season, especially for the months of July, August and September, highly infective months for dengue fever, to protect people.

According to officials, for vector control, they need services of entomologists to know about the habitats of mosquitoes and ascertain the ways as to how they bite people in certain areas.

“In addition, the WHO is also providing 1,000 rapid diagnostic kits to health department to strengthen investigative process of dengue patients,” said officials.

They said that first priority was immediate response to the acute phase of the disease that would be followed by a long term strategy because people would have low resistance to the virus and deaths toll would be much higher next year and the victims could go into shock due to bleeding.

Officials said that about 92 per cent of cases were self-limiting while the rest required simple paracetamol.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2017