Experts question official data after Sindh govt revises dengue death toll to 27

Published September 21, 2022
The anti-dengue spray is being carried out at the Sindh High Court.—Online
The anti-dengue spray is being carried out at the Sindh High Court.—Online

KARACHI: While the Sindh health department has revised the dengue mortality data and announced that there are 27 deaths from the mosquito-borne disease this year, independent health experts cast doubts over the authenticity of the government figures, saying the actual number of dengue-related deaths as well as positive cases in the metropolis are too high.

They blamed the provincial government for the worsening health crisis created by an easily preventable mosquito-borne disease.

The government, they regretted, was still unmoved and had taken no effective measures to eliminate breeding grounds of mosquitoes, though dengue fever had claimed more than two-dozen lives in the city over the past few months and the number of cases continued to rise.

On Tuesday, the health department confirmed total 248 dengue fever cases out of which 109 cases were from district East followed by 65 from Central, 20 from Korangi, 21 from South, 13 from Malir, 12 from Keamari and eight cases are reported from district West.

Health dept confirms 27 deaths; data doesn’t include six mortalities reported from three other hospitals

However, the gravity of the situation on ground can be gauged from the fact that only one laboratory in the city — the central laboratory of the Dow University of Health Sciences — has been receiving and analysing around 1,000 suspected samples on a daily basis and 50 per cent of these samples are tested positive for dengue virus.

Questionable data

According to the official figures, 27 patients — 12 men and 15 women — have died because of dengue fever this year, which has so far seen 5,492 cases since January.

These deaths, the data shows, occurred at three private hospitals of the city; 12 deaths were reported by Ziauddin Hospital (North Nazimbad campus), 10 by Aga Khan University Hospital and five by Saifee Hospital (also located in North Nazimabad).

The figures show that two of the 27 deaths were from district South, 13 from Central, nine from East and one each from Malir, West and Korangi districts.

According to the data, of the total 5,492 cases reported this year, 2,134 reported from district East, 1,208 from Central, 596 from Korangi, 925 from South, 145 from West, 287 from Malir and 197 from Keamari.

Sources said the official data did not include at least six more mortalities; three of them were reported between May and Sept 9 at the Liaquat National Hospital (LNH), two were reported between Aug 1 and Sept 8 at the Indus Hospital and one death at the South City Hospital this month.

“Dengue fever situation is worsening day by day. Sixty per cent of the patients I daily examine at my clinics are being diagnosed to have dengue,” Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, a senior general physician who runs clinics in Korangi, Keamari and Gulberg, told Dawn.

Govt blamed for crisis

He held the government responsible for the health crisis. “No concrete step has been taken by the government so far to eliminate mosquitoes flourishing in every nook and corner of the city. Fortunately, there is public awareness about the disease; otherwise the situation could have been far worse.”

Dr Qaiser Sajjad representing the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) termed the health department data as “absolutely unrealistic”.

“The feedback we are getting from general physicians these days indicate that at least 15 to 20 patients are daily reporting at one clinic. This suggests that the extent of unreported cases is too large,” he said, questioning as to how the government could formulate a strategy to combat the epidemic when it had no realistic data to begin with.

Dr Saeed Khan, a professor of molecular pathology heading the Sindh Public Health Lab, said the current disease pattern indicated that dengue fever cases would increase further till mid-October.

“It’s not like Covid-19 and the illness can easily be prevented by avoiding mosquito-bite. The number of dengue cases is directly proportional to the mosquito growth, which means more people will fall ill as mosquito numbers increase. Unfortunately, in our case, there is no focus on prevention,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2022

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