Question mark over official data as dengue cases rising in Karachi city

Published October 21, 2021
This file photo shows a dengue mosquito. — Reuters/File
This file photo shows a dengue mosquito. — Reuters/File

KARACHI: Contrary to the official figures presenting a small number of dengue cases in Karachi, the mosquito-borne viral disease has affected a significant number of people, though the situation might not be as bad as in other provinces, information gathered from different sources revealed.

According to the official data shared by provincial authorities, 512 dengue cases have so far been reported in Karachi this month out of the total 947 cases recorded in the whole province till to date.

In September, 399 cases of dengue were reported in Karachi. There were 14 deaths from Jan 2020 till October. Four patients died of dengue this month.

This data, government officials claimed, was collected from major tertiary care private and public sector hospitals as well as a selected number of labs.

A health official rules out possibility of missing critical data

Sources, however, said that the majority of dengue patients either reported at general physicians or at hospital’s out-patient departments and that a few government hospitals maintained a proper data collection system especially of those patients who reported at the OPDs.

1,282 cases at one hospital in 19 days

The Indus Hospital in Korangi — one of the few health facilities in the city with a proper system of patient data collection — conducted a total of 3,402 dengue tests from Oct 1 till Oct 19 out of which 1,282 came positive.

The findings bring into question the credibility of the government data.

Several senior general practitioners (GPs), Dawn spoke to, said the government figures did not represent the facts and that the number of dengue patients in the city was much higher.

“I have been seeing 10 to 15 confirmed dengue cases daily for the past two to three weeks out of the total 30 to 40 patients that report at clinics in Keamari and Korangi. Given this number at only two clinics, one could imagine what would be the situation like in the rest of the city” said Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, a senior GP.

He described the situation as alarming, requiring immediate intervention.

“Dengue mortalities are higher (as compared to the official data) due to the emergence of new variants and going unreported. Studies conducted in Lahore have shown that chances of complications are now higher. The mode of treatment has also changed and the doctors need to be educated about it,” he added.

According to Dr Shoro, one major reason for the ‘under-reported data’ is the fact that the majority of dengue patients, largely with mild symptoms, do not go to hospitals unless they developed serious symptoms.

Many patients don’t go for test

Seconding his opinion, some other GPs told Dawn that several patients with classic dengue signs did not even bother to have their tests done due to financial constraints. It’s also because they believed that dengue was not a life-threatening disease.

“We only maintain data of admitted patients. Right now, we have 32 dengue patients; 11 were admitted on Wednesday and 23 on Tuesday,” shared Dr Shahid Rasul, the executive director of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC).

Dr Sajjad Siddiqui, who runs a clinic in Shireen Jinnah Colony was of the opinion that though dengue had become a serious concern in recent weeks, the situation was not as bad in other provinces.

According to health experts, people shouldn’t suffer from a disease that can easily be prevented by improving the city’s sanitary conditions and carrying out periodic fumigation campaigns.

“What’s also needed is to educate doctors that the mode of treatment has changed and inform the general public to take the disease seriously,” said Dr Shoro.

Dr Ghulam Parwar, representing the health department, said the government was running a comprehensive dengue surveillance programme under which breeding sites were identified and eliminated.

“It’s not possible that we are missing the critical data since all major public and private hospitals and even labs shared their data with us,” he said.

According to him, the government had also trained 300 physicians about the updated management guidelines on dengue.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2021

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