Dengue takes people off-guard | Pakistan Today

Dengue takes people off-guard

A family mourns the death of their 60-year-old father at Civil Hospital in Rawalpindi whereas his son Suhail waits outside the hospital for an ambulance to take the body home for funeral prayers. “Around two weeks ago, my father got a severe fever. His joints and all the body was in pain. He wasn’t able to stand. I took him to a local hospital in my village where the doctor told me that he was suffering from malaria,” said Suhail, adding that he prescribed some medicines but after few days the condition of his father worsened. “I was really upset. My relatives advised me to take him to any hospital in the city after which I brought him here. After the blood tests, the doctors told me that my father had dengue fever. I don’t know about the disease and how he became a victim of it,” he explained.
Mosquitoes are considered as the one of the most dangerous creature on earth as the diseases they spread have been responsible for killing more people than all the wars in human history. In the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi over 500 people have so far been infected from the virus while four of them lost their lives, as the government is struggling to control a growing dengue fever epidemic. More than 12,000 cases of dengue fever have been reported nationwide, with around 90 percent reported in Lahore, while the number of deaths has reached 160. While the disease, which is spread by mosquitoes, is not new in Pakistan, experts say it has spread at an alarming rate and may turn out to be a crisis.
The relevant doctor, who treated the patient at Civil Hospital, told Pakistan Today on condition of anonymity that the deceased was brought to the hospital two days ago. According to initial reports, he was infected by dengue virus 15 days ago but he did not consult a doctor in his hometown because of lack of awareness. He said the doctors did their best but could not save his life because of his critical condition. If they had brought him to the Civil Hospital at an early stage, he could have been saved.
“Dengue fever is a tropical disease transmitted by mosquitoes that breed in stagnant water,” Dr Iqbal from Emergency Dengue Cell Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) said. “The epidemic is thriving because of poor hygiene, absence of preventive measures and the fact that recent heavy monsoon rains lowered temperatures and provided lots of water – an ideal condition for dengue-carrying mosquitoes.
Dr Iqbal said there was no vaccine against dengue fever and the only remedy was early detection. “Once a person is infected, his blood count drops. If it goes below 10,000, it can cause death. Most the patients who have died in Lahore died because they didn’t get a timely blood transfusion.” He said, “Because dengue fever is a viral disease, there is no specific medicine or antibiotic to threat it and we can only treat the symptoms once a person is infected. The best way to get rid of virus is prevention. People should keep their houses and the surroundings clean and dry while the government must take measures to educate people about the disease.” The first case of dengue in Pakistan was reported in 1994. The government officials warn that the disease has reached epidemic levels this year. In response, the government has set up special dengue units at every public hospital. Federal and provincial governments claim that the treatment is free and the state-run hospitals are providing free diagnostic investigation. Tests are being conducted within two hours inside the hospital instead of private clinics.
The government had instructed relevant quarters that every dengue patient should be provide free of cost treatment besides blood transfusion non-donor basis, in case it was required. On the other hand, Mohammad Khalid, father of 19-year-old Bilal who is admitted in the hospital, said he had to pay for treatment. “My son was admitted here one week ago. I am concerned about being able to pay for the lab tests as they are expensive. The doctors have told us to have the tests done at private labs, as the equipments at the hospital are out of order.”
An area, where the mosquitoes carrying dengue have been detected, was being fumigated by a local government employee. A district officer, who requested anonymity, said, “We can’t use strong medicines because they are hazardous to human health. Wherever any dengue case is reported, we fumigate that particular house and also 28 other house around the affected house.” But it is more or less a knee jerk reaction. The real solution is prevention and awareness campaign to educate the people. According to the World Health Organisation, around one third of the world’s population is at risk from dengue fever. The incidence and severity of this mosquito-borne illness are increasing in many parts of the world.

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