LAHORE: The health authorities have allegedly been misleading the Punjab government and the public as well about the dengue-related mortality amid reports that all the four strains of the disease have hit the province, leaving several patients dead particularly during the last three months or so.

A report has exposed the health authorities while unveiling that all the four dengue virus serotypes DEN 1, DEN 2, DEN 3 and DEN 4 are prevalent in Punjab where the disease is claiming lives of 40 to 60 patients every year.

On the other hand, the health authorities have reported only six deaths in Punjab since Jan 1 so far and allegedly concealed the reports of circulation of four types of the virus.

The four viruses are called serotypes because each has different interactions with the antibodies in human blood serum.

Minister rejects charges about concealing exact scale of disease

The report further revealed that these strains were prevailing in South East Asia and the circulation [of all four strains] in Punjab gave rise to a potential risk of high mortality.

It is evident from a part of the report where it has been warned, “There is a more risk of mortality if a person gets exposed to the different serotypes”.

According to sources in the health departments, several dengue-related deaths have been reported in public and private sector health facilities across Punjab but the higher authorities concealed the data to ‘cover up their negligence’ with regard to initiating preventive activities.

They claimed that the primary healthcare department and the Punjab directorate health services did not carry out anti-dengue activities including spray and house-to-house surveillance.

The large-scale practice was lastly witnessed during the tenure of the PML-N government in Punjab when the then CM Shahbaz Sharif had imposed anti-dengue regulations and held over 40 meetings to oversee the activities across the province during the first outbreak of the virus some 12 years back.Talking to Dawn, a health official said the presence of the four serotypes was itself a major threat to the lives of the patients as was unveiled in the report which elaborated the burden of the viruses in detail.

According to the [Sept 13 to Nov 2] data from the dengue PCR testing report of the provincial public health reference lab, the laboratory received a total of 873 samples of the dengue patients for tests.

Of them, 418 samples tested positive, it said adding that out of these reports, 217 patients were of DEN-1, 188 of DEN-2, eight of DEN-4 and six of DEN-3.The official said a large number of patients was being hospitalised every day after onset of the severe dengue fever with plasma leakage, bleeding and organ impairment.

He accused the health authorities of negligence saying they were carrying out PCR testing of a low number of patients to show less burden of the viruses.

Giving a reference of official data in this respect, the official said the worst epidemic of dengue started from first week of August in Punjab.

He said a total of 9,587 positive cases were reported from Aug 1 to Nov 5 in Punjab with most of them surfaced in Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad.

The data has constituted 97 per cent of the total 10,543 dengue positive cases reported this year (from Jan 1 to Nov 5). A maximum 243 dengue cases were reported on Sept 22 in a day in Punjab, he said.

The official said most of the deaths were reported during the last three-month period and they had gone unreported.

The official claimed that the dengue-related deaths due to the outbreak of all the four serotypes were estimated over 500 in Punjab during the last three months.

On the other hand, the Dengue Experts Advisory Group (DEAG) has officially confirmed only six deaths reported this year so far due to the dengue fever in Punjab.

In 2021, the total number of dengue fever cases were reported 25,605 officially in Punjab with 60 deaths while 40 patients had died in 2022 besides reporting a total of 18,897 other positive cases.

Issuing a statement here on Tuesday, Punjab Health Minister Prof Javed Akram claimed that the dengue situation remained under control this year.

He said this year Punjab witnessed the number of deaths and the dengue positive cases less than those reported during previous years.

Mr Akram rejected the allegations and the reports that the health authorities were concealing the exact scale of the disease and the dengue-related mortality.

“Only six dengue-related deaths occurred this year so far across the province,” Punjab Health Secretary Ali Jan said.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2023

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