Administration clueless to fight dengue

Karachi: Provincial and local administration of Karachi are clueless to deal with the dengue fever onslaught, as the viral fever has taken the city into its tight grip. Dengue viral fever cases are on a sharp rise in Karachi and it is feared a lot more cases would be reported up to the month of December. In this backdrop aggressive preventive, diagnostic and treatments steps including setting up of specialized dengue wards in all government-run hospitals of the city are needed to check the dengue virus.

Dengue is a widespread disease in Karachi. In past the provincial health department used to issue daily reports about the dengue cases, but as the number of these cases went very high, the bureaucrats stopped releasing these daily reports as they were causing embracement for their ministers. However, general practitioners and family physicians are seeing dozens of such cases every day in their clinics.

There is no official figure about the dengue cases this year, but it is estimated that the number of dengue fever cases in Karachi is in thousands. If the data regarding dengue-specific tests is obtained from the registered laboratories of the city it would be an eye-opener for the government and medical community. It may also be noted that about 50percent cases of dengue are asymptotic and in these cases the patients do not show any apparent symptoms of the disease.

Sadly, there are no separate specialized dengue wards in the government-run hospitals of the city including Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC), Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH). The treatment of dengue in private hospitals is very costly and beyond the reach of poor and low income families.

Sources in health and local government departments said the government fully knows about the prevalence of dengue virus in Karachi as well as the pathetic sanitary conditions of the city, but it has decided to hush up the dengue issue as it may cause political embracement for the elected government. They said the senior officers are handpicked on the basis of their political leaning and not on professional merit. This is why these officers have no vision about problems of general public as their main task is to keep their ministers happy. They said widespread corruption and mismanagement in the healthcare and municipal affairs sectors is another factor behind spread of vector diseases like malaria and dengue in Karachi.

The government should consider the issue of dengue spread seriously as sooner or later the cat would be out of the bag, because the rising number of dengue patients in the weeks to come would not make it possible for the government to hush this serious public health issue up. If the provincial government of Sindh really wants to fight the dengue and other vector diseases, the policy of good governance and transparency would help it a lot.

The health department should offer dengue-specific blood tests at the government-run laboratories either free of charge or on subsided rates, as these tests are very costly at the private laboratories. This is also high time to activate anti-viral diagnostic laboratory in government sector in this largest city of Pakistan.

The government should engage the biological sciences departments of Karachi University and other higher educational institutions besides the medical universities of the city to device a comprehensive mechanism to deal with the dengue threat.

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