KARACHI: Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho on Wednesday told the Sindh Assembly that the epidemic of drug-resistant ‘superbug’ typhoid, first identified in Hyderabad in 2016, was now spreading in parts of Karachi because of contaminated water.
The minister said this while giving a statement and replying to queries of lawmakers in the provincial assembly’s Question Hour.
Explaining the provincial government’s efforts to control the epidemic, Dr Pechuho said 116,000 children aged six months to 10 years had been vaccinated till October 2018, while a training plan for mass vaccination had been completed for Karachi. She said the mass vaccination plan for other parts of the province was also in process.
The minister said the province had planned to import conjugated vaccine for four million children and the matter was in process with the federal government and Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan.
‘Naegleria has no cure and it can only be prevented through chlorination of water’
She said a tentative plan had been approved for further mass vaccination against typhoid and it would be started this year.
The minister said the vaccine would be incorporated in routine immunisation after a mass campaign against the disease.
She said that Hyderabad, Latifabad and some localities of Karachi, including Saddar, Lyari, Liaquatabad and North Karachi, were affected more than other parts of the province.
Answering a question, she said polysaccharide vaccination was done through a child survival programme to eligible children as well as a conjugate typhoid vaccine campaign was being carried out in the affected areas of Hyderabad district in collaboration with the Aga Khan University Hospital.
When asked if any emergency was declared as the situation was getting serious, the minister replied that there was a paucity of doses as well.
As for the reason for not launching an awareness campaign, she said the government did not want to spread panic in the public until the required number of doses was obtained.
Besides, she said that general practitioners were also sensitised and informed by the department regarding the drug-resistant typhoid, irrational use of antibiotics and waterborne diseases.
Seven died of Naegleria fowleri
Answering another question, Dr Pechuho said that seven people died of Naegleria fowleri infection (NFI) across the province.
She said it was the basic responsibility of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board to ensure hygienic drinking water. “Naegleria has no cure so far and it can only be prevented through chlorination of water and other measures for safe water supply,” the minister added.
She said the role of the health department was very limited as it could only impart health education, conduct public awareness sessions through the print and electronic media for maintaining hygiene and to share the chlorination of water status with the KWSB for taking pre-emptive measures to prevent deaths caused by NFI.
The minister said that chlorination of water was the only way to kill the Naegleria parasite, which grew and multiplied in sewage.
Dr Pechuho said the water distribution system was very old and was not up to the mark. She said that chlorination of water at source was not yielding the required results as sewage often got mixed with drinking water, leading to spread of typhoid and other diseases.
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2019