THE dengue monster is once again rearing its head in different cities of Punjab. More than 820 cases have surfaced so far this year, 687 of them in Lahore. The city appears to be bracing itself for yet another major dengue outbreak as health experts warn of the increased presence of dengue larvae following the recent spell of rain in Lahore. According to news reports, dengue has claimed at least one life in Lahore while scores of people are testing positive on a daily basis. On Wednesday alone, at least 126 people tested positive for dengue, indicating that matters could spiral out of control if effective preventive measures are not taken immediately. Meanwhile, more than 50 cases have been reported from Rawalpindi where 36 patients are reported to be receiving treatment at three government hospitals. Cases also seem to be on the rise in the KP city of Mansehra that has reported at least two fatalities.

The Punjab chief minister on Monday issued instructions for mobilising field teams and stepping up surveillance of both public and private places, especially tyre shops and graveyards, to carry out fumigation and drain stagnant water from these areas to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. However, a large-scale public awareness campaign is also needed to prevent misinformation about dengue and to encourage people to take precautions. For example, many people believe that the dengue mosquito is active only at dawn and dusk. But research suggests that the Aedes mosquito responsible for the spread of dengue bites during the day as well, especially two hours after sunrise and before sunset. Immediate action is needed to ensure that the outbreak is contained as soon as possible and does not reach the near-epidemic proportions of 2019, when cases in Punjab rose to more than 8,670 with over 50,000 reported from all of Pakistan. In the middle of the Covid pandemic the already overstretched and rickety health infrastructure cannot take the stress of another outbreak of disease.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2021

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