Dengue claims another life this week

from DAWN Group of Newspapers
Published on 26 Jul 2013 View Original

Hasan Mansoor

KARACHI, July 26: As the death toll caused by dengue fever in the city climbed to six this year with the death of an elderly man in a private hospital publicly confirmed on Friday, officials warned of difficult times still ahead for citizens.

They said the tropical disease could attain ‘epidemic proportions’ when the current monsoon season was scheduled to continue in September.

Mohammad Amin, 68, had been admitted to the private hospital since July 17 in a precarious condition.

The victim, a resident of Gulshan-i-Iqbal, was the eldest among the six dengue patients who died this year. Their aggregate age is 31 now as the youngest victim was a 20-year-old girl from New Karachi.

Officials in the dengue surveillance cell, Sindh, said the man had died late Wednesday night but they got its confirmation only on Friday. They did not provide any personal details about Mr Amin to the media.

In July alone, four people have died so far from dengue in Karachi. The death of other three patients was reported on July 22, July 15 and July 2. The patients were residents of Orangi Town, North Karachi and New Karachi.

The officials said some 13 dengue patients were still admitted to different hospitals and eight new cases had been reported in the city. Some 13 patients had been discharged from hospitals after treatment on Friday, they added.With half a dozen deaths this year, the fever is preying on with more lethality after a pause of two years. Last year the disease had claimed four lives in all.

Health officials said dengue historically returned with more severity every third year. It killed 16 people in 2011 and four last year after claiming 20 in 2010.

More deaths feared

With a limited capability of the Karachi municipalities to launch an effective vector control programme, lack of public awareness and a meteorological forecast warning for 15 per cent more rainfall this year than the yearly aggregate, officials said that dengue could “harm more than it was feared”.

A provincial health department official said: “It returns with every third year as we have got historical data since 2005 when this disease forcefully appeared after a mild attack in 1994.

“It has killed six people already and we have our monsoon yet to formally start. The authorities should take all-out measures to keep its impact in check especially in September and onwards.”

Officials have initially identified North Nazimabad, SITE, Clifton Cantonment, Saddar Town and Gulistan-i-Jauhar as the ‘vulnerable areas’ and decided to give them ‘special attention’.

According to the data compiled by the dengue surveillance cell, more than 500 dengue cases have been reported in Sindh so far this year. Most cases have been reported in Karachi, except for 13 from the rest of the province.

Last year more than 700 cases of dengue fever were reported and four people, including a woman, died of the disease.

In 2011, 858 dengue cases and 16 related deaths had been reported from Karachi.

Prevention steps

Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui said the government was aware of the dangers associated with the disease and was taking ‘effective measures’ to keep it in check. “We are aware of the danger it poses. The chief minister is keen to take all-out preventive measures, which is evident from the fact that he immediately released funds for the district municipal corporations to launch preventive measures including vector control sprays and garbage lifting in the city,” said Mr Siddiqui while speaking to Dawn.

He said protection kits and impregnated mosquito nets had been supplied to hospitals, awareness campaign had already been launched and the shops that repair punctured tyres were being visited to ensure that they change water in their tubs frequently.

“We are doing everything to offer no breeding ground to the mosquito, and people should also cooperate with us in our effort. They should not creative breeding grounds for dengue mosquito and it is better to use themselves repellents to pre-empt the disease,” said the commissioner.

The officials admitted that no part of the city could be termed ‘dengue-protected’, as the cases from almost every neighbourhood had been reported since 2005.

The provincial malaria control programme officials have been asked to allocate 25 per cent of its insecticides to Karachi and work hand-in-hand with the city’s municipal authorities to combat against malaria and dengue.

Official figures show that dengue fever’s first incidence in Karachi was reported in 1994 when 145 confirmed cases were recorded of whom one victim had died.

The disease hibernated since then till 2005 when the authorities recorded 258 cases out of whom 16 died. 2006 was the deadliest year with 49 deaths and 1,500 cases.

The authorities then turned to an efficient mode in the next two years during which 20 people died out of 931 confirmed cases. In 2010, as many as 3,382 confirmed cases were reported.

Pandemic threat

According to the World Health Organization, dengue is the world fastest-spreading tropical disease and represents a “pandemic threat”, infecting an estimated 50 million people across all the continents.

Transmitted by the bite of female mosquitoes, the disease is occurring more widely due to increased movement of people and goods — including carrier objects such as bamboo plants and used tyres — as well as floods linked to climate change, the United Nations agency said.

The viral disease that affected only a handful of areas in the 1950s is now present in more than 125 countries — significantly more than malaria, historically the most notorious mosquito-borne disease.

The most advanced vaccine against dengue was only 30 per cent effective, last year trials showed.

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