WITH rains continuing across most of the country, a dengue outbreak can quickly become a major headache for health authorities. The dengue virus is transmitted by mosquitoes that breed in fresh water, which can accumulate quickly in pools, ponds, pots and any open container after rainfall. If the citizenry is not made adequately aware of prevention measures, such as covering, draining and cleaning water storage and any open containers on a frequent basis, dengue mosquitoes can easily find areas to breed. It may be recalled that a major outbreak of dengue occurred in 2019 after weeks of heavy and sustained precipitation. With similar conditions in 2022, the threat of another major outbreak is, therefore, quite elevated.
The World Health Organisation recommends that health authorities remain actively on the lookout for reports of dengue cases and move immediately to contain and eliminate the disease from whichever area it is being reported in. Since Punjab has historically recorded the highest incidence of dengue cases, its health infrastructure has evolved over the years to respond to the disease by both regularly spreading awareness regarding its prevention as well as planned fumigation drives to eliminate mosquito populations. However, there are weaknesses apparent in the health administrations of both Balochistan and Sindh — two provinces which have received unseasonably high rainfall this year — and the relevant authorities will need to race to prevent any health emergency in affected areas. The provinces must launch fumigation drives where they can and provide insecticides or mosquito repellent in areas they cannot feasibly fumigate. Other measures, such as sharing information regarding when Aedes mosquitoes are most active (dawn and dusk) and how to protect oneself when sleeping outdoors can greatly help prevent a breakout. The provision of trained medical staff and appropriate drugs to alleviate symptoms will also help those infected avoid developing a serious illness. Any dengue prevention drive requires proper planning and sustained execution, and it will be up to the relevant authorities to deliver with all seriousness.
Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2022