Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dengue fever cases rise to 70, civic paper over cracks

[By Baqir Sajjad Syed. DAWN]

SLAMABAD, Oct 29: With the number of confirmed cases of dengue fever closing to 100 in the twin cities, senior officials of civic agencies are claiming that the situation is perfectly under control and there is nothing to be worried about.

The number of confirmed cases of dengue fever in the twin cities had risen to 71 by Saturday afternoon. The problem is more intense in Rawalpindi, where 41 cases have been confirmed compared to 30 reported in the capital. Fresh figures for Sunday were not available being a holiday.

However, the speed with which the disease is spreading in the twin cities can be judged from the fact that in the first week of the outbreak of disease from October 12-19, 25 confirmed cases were reported, while in the second week from October 20-28, 46 fresh cases were reported, almost double the number of cases reported during the first week.

Doctors have termed the situation epidemic, believing that the number of cases being reported is just the tip of the iceberg.

Federal Health Secretary Anwar Mehmood had recently said that dengue fever was not a health issue alone and was also related to our environment. He believed the role of municipal administration was all the more important since fumigation, fogging and removal of solid waste from the cities was their job.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has endorsed this view saying that proper vector control by involving municipal administrations and social mobilisation and education of the people about the disease can effectively contribute towards controlling the disease.

Capital Development Authority’s Director Health Services Dr Saeed Ahmed told this reporter that the situation was under control. He said the figure of just 30 was not significant for Islamabad having a population of over 1.5 million.

He claimed that the authority had been spraying and fogging in the city since the start of the October. He contended that falling temperatures would finish off the problem.

City District Nazim Raja Javed Ikhlas also said that the number of cases was quite insignificant, as some of those testing positive had travelled to Rawalpindi for Eid vacations.

Rawalpindi district government had started fumigation from October 23. Executive District Officer (Health) Dr Zafar Iqbal Gondal was not ready to concede that the health department was slow to respond. Mr. Gondal insisted that he was the first in Punjab to launch the awareness campaign and anti-mosquito spray.

The general public is critical of the performance of the civic agencies to control the disease. While the affluent are ordering fumigation of their homes and the schools where their children study, the poor and the disadvantaged living in slums, the general public thinks, have been left at the mercy of the mosquitoes.

Notwithstanding the tall claims of the officials of civic agencies, their failure is quite evident from their failure in controlling malaria also spread by mosquitoes.

Malaria outbreaks occur every year in this season and because of ineffective control the malarial parasite has become multi- drug resistant and is showing an alarming re-emergence. The preventive measures for malaria and dengue fever are the same.

Commenting on the views of the civic agencies about the issue, a senior medical practitioner said: “It is good to paint a rosy picture, but there’s need to be careful so that it does not impact on the ongoing or planned interventions. We should not be alarmist and should not be minimalists either.”

The brighter side of the whole episode is that districts like Rawalpindi previously relying on outdated equipment for fumigation have started purchasing modern equipment.

Copyright C. PakSEF 2002 - 2006

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