KARACHI: Dengue cases have seen a spike in recent weeks in the city where civic conditions have worsened following heavy downpour over the past two months, it emerged on Monday.

Speaking to Dawn, senior health experts said that an overwhelming number of dengue patients were reporting to doctors these days and that people having complaints of sore throat along with high-grade fever should get their tests done for the mosquito-borne disease within 24 hours of developing these signs and symptoms.

They warned that poor patient management by any (unqualified) doctor as well as self-medication, including use of antibiotics, steroids and even some common medicines, which in fact lowered the platelet level, might complicate the case, causing death.

They, however, did not describe the situation as “alarming” as the majority of patients were getting safely recovered at home in a week or so.

347 cases reported in five days; people having sore throat, fever advised to get tested within 24 hours

According to sources, the highest number of dengue patients i.e. 45, is currently under treatment at the Sindh Infectious Disease Hospital and Research Centre.

Forty-five children, the sources said, were also under treatment at the facility with dengue, pneumonia, meningitis, enteric fever, dysentery and diarrhoea.

“A major problem we are experiencing is lack of space. All our high dependency units on three flours are 95 per cent full,” a senior doctor working at the hospital said, adding that the facility faced no major issue in meeting patient’s blood needs.

The health department has recorded 347 cases in the first five days of September, with most of the cases reported in Karachi East (113). A total of 1,265 cases were recorded in August.

‘Not an alarming situation’

Experts at the Dow University of Health Sciences stated that there had been a gradual increase in the number of dengue cases being detected at the university’s central laboratory over the past three months.

Dr Saeed Khan, a professor of molecular pathology heading the Sindh Public Health Lab at the university, said: “By mid-August, we have had 20pc dengue cases out of the 1,300 samples received from our labs across the city. Later, out of the 1,563 suspected samples, 30pc were detected to be of dengue. By the end of August, we had received 3,274 samples out of which 40pc of samples were confirmed dengue cases.”

According to him, patients who have been earlier infected with the disease are more vulnerable to illness severity in case of second infection from another serotype.

“There are four distinct, but closely related, serotypes of the virus that cause dengue. Recovery from infection is believed to provide lifelong immunity against that serotype. In our country, serotype-2 is more prevalent. Antibodies developed in the first dengue attack facilitated infection from the other serotype,” he said.

The spike in cases, Dr Khan said, was very much in line with dengue’s seasonal pattern seen almost every year. He also dispelled the widely-held belief that dengue mosquitoes flourished in clean water and that these mosquito attacks were more likely at dawn and dusk.

“There is a long list of mosquito-borne infections and the emphasis should be on prevention from mosquito-bite at all times,” he said.

Dr Syed Masroor Ahmed, a professor of medicine and dean at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, said dengue cases had increased and so had cases of other diseases, including malaria.

“It’s neither surprising nor alarming given the state of the city’s civic conditions and neglect of the general public towards hygiene. Most dengue patients are recovering at home without experiencing any complications,” he said.

The experts say that people should know that commonly used medicines, such as aspirin, lowered the platelet level and that antibiotics shouldn’t be used in viral diseases.

Also, some commonly used syrups for fever and sore throat have compounds that suppress body response ever and that management of dengue has changed and now there is emphasis on oral hydration.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2022

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