Heat-related illnesses on the rise in Karachi amid shortage of ORS

Published May 30, 2024
The female emergency ward of the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi runs out of beds due to a large number of patients who came to the health facility with complaints of heatstroke, acute dehydration or diarrohea, on Wednesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
The female emergency ward of the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi runs out of beds due to a large number of patients who came to the health facility with complaints of heatstroke, acute dehydration or diarrohea, on Wednesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Amid an acute shortage of oral rehydration salts (ORS) not only in Karachi but across the country, cases of heat-related illnesses are on the rise due to harsh weather conditions that prevail in the metropolis for more than a week, it emerged on Wednesday.

The heat-related illnesses include viral infections and diarrhoea. ORS is an effective treatment for diarrhoea and dehydration, but it has just disappeared from the city markets.

Sources said that many affected patients were reporting at general physicians’ clinics where they were prescribed symptomatic medications to reduce the severity of the symptoms and asked to increase fluid intake.

“These days, we are seeing a large number of patients suffering from high fever, body aches, sore throat, running nose and cough. Most of these patients show signs of recovery in few days with symptomatic treatment,” said Dr Altaf Hussain Khatri, a senior general physician, also representing the Pakistan Medical Association.

Doctors say dozens of patients with heat exhaustion, heatstroke reported daily at CHK

Dr Khatri explained that heatwaves accelerated growth of all kinds of germs, including viruses. Hence, it’s common to see a spike in infectious diseases, especially viral infections, in persisting high temperatures. The symptomatic treatment provided relief to patients, helping them to build immunity against the infection.

Experts believe that the diarrhoea cases being reported these days are also directly linked to the ongoing heatwave, forcing people to consume cold juices being sold on roadsides that are often made with contaminated water or prepared with poor hygiene.

They regretted that ORS, which is an effective treatment for diarrhoea and dehydration, had just disappeared from several markets.

Speaking to Dawn, Zahid Saeed, former chairman of Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA), said that the acute shortage of ORS was not just in Karachi but across the country.

“But, it will end soon with the arrival of raw material in the first week of June. The people, however, were made to suffer unnecessarily as the acute shortage of this life-saving medicine could have been avoided,” he said.

He explained that the delay in import orders occurred due to differences over products’ pricing with the government. “This matter has been sorted out but manufacturers were able to place orders for the raw material only last month,” he said, adding that the procurement was normally done in November-December to prepare for the summer season next year.“

Heat exhaustion

At Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), at least 40-45 patients reported with complaints of heat exhaustion and 20 with heatstroke on Wednesday. No mortality was reported.

“Fluid therapy and fever management help stabilise patients of dehydration. Most of them are discharged in few hours. Patients of heatstroke are retained for at least six hours,” shared Dr Liaquat Ali Halo, in-charge emergency and additional medical superintendent of CHK.

Last week, a total of 300 to 400 patients suffering from heat-related illnesses reported at the hospital, he added.

Officials at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and the Indus Hospital had no heat-affected case on Wednesday.

“From May 22 onwards, we have had 29 cases. There is no admission so far,” said Dr Yahya Tunio, serving as the deputy executive director at the JPMC.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Price bombs
Updated 18 Jun, 2024

Price bombs

It just wants to take the easy route and enjoy the ride for however long it is in power.
Palestine’s plight
Updated 17 Jun, 2024

Palestine’s plight

While the faithful across the world are celebrating with their families, thousands of Palestinian children have either been orphaned, or themselves been killed by the Israeli aggressors.
Profiting off denied visas
Updated 19 Jun, 2024

Profiting off denied visas

The staggering rejection rates underscore systemic biases in the largely non-transparent visa approval process.
After the deluge
Updated 16 Jun, 2024

After the deluge

There was a lack of mental fortitude in the loss against India while against US, the team lost all control and displayed a lack of cohesion and synergy.
Fugue state
16 Jun, 2024

Fugue state

WITH its founder in jail these days, it seems nearly impossible to figure out what the PTI actually wants. On one...
Sindh budget
16 Jun, 2024

Sindh budget

SINDH’S Rs3.06tr budget for the upcoming financial year is a combination of populist interventions, attempts to...