KARACHI: An attendant sits on a bench in a hospital on Thursday as two patients suffering from dengue fever rest in their beds.—INP
KARACHI: An attendant sits on a bench in a hospital on Thursday as two patients suffering from dengue fever rest in their beds.—INP

ISLAMABAD: The dengue outbreak in the country appears to be crossing the previous record of 2011 when 27,000 people were affected by the mosquito-borne disease.

However, this time deaths caused by dengue are expected to be minimal as compared to 2011 when 370 people lost their lives to the painful disease.

During the current year, 42 deaths have been caused by dengue so far and health practitioners attribute the lower mortality rate to better availability of surveillance and curative measures.

According to a government document available with Dawn, during the current year over 25,000 dengue cases have been confirmed from across the country. As many as 6,537 cases have been reported from Islamabad, 5,642 from Punjab, 4,403 from Sindh, 4,276 from Khyber Pakhtun­khwa and 2,750 from Balochistan. The remaining cases have been reported from other regions, including AJK and Tribal Districts. Almost two-thirds of the cases have been reported from the Potohar region.

Dengue has claimed lives of 15 persons in Sindh, 13 in Islamabad, 10 in Punjab, three in Balochistan and one in AJK.

Dr Rana Safdar, chief of Disease Surveillance Division at the National Institute of Health, said that the huge number of cases also shows that now surveillance and awareness have been increased and more patients get themselves tested for dengue as compared to the past.

However, he advised people “not to get panicked as over 90 per cent patients even don’t need treatment and most of dengue victims have died due to dehydration”.

About the history of dengue, Dr Safdar said that it is believed that the dengue mosquito landed in Pakistan in 1994 along with a consignment of tyres. It hit Karachi in 2005 and a major outbreak occurred in 2011 when around 27,000 persons were infected with the disease.

“Widespread dengue across the world is largely attributable to climate change. Currently half of the world population residing in 125 countries is at risk. World Health Organisation in early 2019 included dengue among top 10 global public health threats to the world,” he said.

During the current year, in Philippines 292,076 cases and 1,084 deaths have been reported till Aug 13, in Vietnam 124,751 cases by Sept 26, Malaysia 98,184 cases by Sept 26, Thailand 85,520 by Sept 10, Bangladesh 81,839 cases as of Sept 16, Sri Lanka 46,126, Laos 30,662 till Sept 26, Singapore 12,371 till Sept 26, Bhutan 7,664 till Aug 29, Nepal 5,096 till Sept 19 and in Maldives 3,706 cases were reported till Sept 4,” Dr Safdar said.

“Like many other countries in the region, Pakistan is also facing dengue upsurge in 2019,” he said.

He said that dengue mosquito can’t fly more than 100 meters during its lifetime, which is around 20 days. It is born in houses and lays eggs there or at nearby places.

“Community awareness can create major hurdle against dengue and can decrease the number of cases. People should use mosquito repellent, cover their arms and legs, particularly before sunrise and after sunset. In case of having dengue, they should not get panicked as it can be treated by having lots of fluids and fruits and controlling the fever,” said Dr Safdar.

This year the government has established a national centre to tackle dengue on the pattern of the national centre dealing with polio, he said, hoping that from next year better results would be observed.

Dr Safdar said that the NIH Emergency Operation Centre has been activated to monitor the dengue situation and a daily situation report is being sent to the federal and provincial health departments.

“The seasonal awareness and alert letter and the advisory on prevention and control... have been widely disseminated. A task force led by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza is leading response activities and reviews the situation on a daily basis to execute the requisite measures. Dedicated beds have been allocated to tackle dengue both in public and private hospitals of Islamabad and the quality of clinical services is being vigorously monitored. The observed case fatality rate, therefore, stays below 0.2 per cent i.e. well within the limits of 1pc targeted by the WHO,” he said.

The NIH is providing technical assistance and laboratory support to the provinces for ascertaining the circulating serotypes in different geographical zones, Dr Safdar said.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2019