AS weather conditions change in Pakistan, the threat of dengue looms large over the land. According to a warning issued by the Met department last week, the current weather conditions in the country mean that a dengue outbreak is on the horizon, specifically in 10 cities. These include Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Rawalpindi-Islamabad. Our creaky health infrastructure is already being severely tested — just as in years past — by thousands of dengue cases across the country. According to figures published in the media, Sindh has logged in over 7,000 cases, while KP comes in second with more than 6,000 cases. Hospitals in Karachi, for example, are reportedly flooded with patients, while some public health institutions in the city have apparently stopped admitting dengue cases. Meanwhile, millions of flood-affected people are also vulnerable to vector-borne ailments. This means that unless there is a nationally coordinated anti-dengue campaign, the illness risks spreading further, with the health infrastructure incapable of coping with a deluge of cases and fumigation efforts unable to keep pace with mosquito breeding.
Punjab has in the past successfully dealt with dengue outbreaks, and proven methods need to be deployed to keep the virus-bearing mosquitoes at bay. Experts have stressed the need to fumigate dengue larvae to prevent the mosquitoes from proliferating. The administration in Karachi claims it has undertaken a fumigation campaign, but most citizens have yet to see the successful effects of this anti-dengue operation. The fact is that the authorities in all the provinces facing the dengue threat need to shake off their lethargy, and deal with this public health emergency before it metastasises into an epidemic. Regular spraying and ensuring sanitary conditions in cities and towns can play an effective role in reducing vector-borne ailments such as dengue, malaria and chikungunya. Health authorities also need to use the mainstream and social media to communicate messages about dengue prevention, and where to get treatment if a case is suspected. The Sindh government has reduced the prices of dengue tests, but clichéd as it may sound, prevention is better than the cure, so the emphasis should be on getting rid of the dengue mosquitoes before they can infect large chunks of the populace. International best practices on fighting dengue exist which need to be reviewed by our health experts. Pakistan has had several years to understand and come to terms with the dengue threat. The state must now prioritise public healthcare.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2022