Dengue emergency declared in Swat
20 September, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The authorities in Swat Valley have declared a health emergency after nearly 5,000 cases of dengue fever were reported in a month.
The virus, borne by mosquitoes which breed in stagnant water, has killed 17 people in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa since August 19, 14 of them in Swat.
Doctors said the number of patients was increasing every day. Dengue causes high fever and severe joint and muscle pains.
"So far 14 people have died due to this disease while 4,934 people have tested positive. We have declared a health emergency in the district," Swat District Health Officer Abdul Khaliq said.
Khaliq said the outbreak has been declared an epidemic.
"It is becoming dangerous. Dengue larvae are everywhere, in and outside houses, in streets and all other places," he said.
An outbreak in Lahore in September 2011 killed 362 people and infected more than 21,000.
Doctor Qutbuddin Kakar, focal person for the World Health Organisation (WHO) on dengue, confirmed the virus had claimed 14 lives in Swat and said it had been declared an epidemic.
"The WHO is coordinating with the local authorities, we are helping them to control the disease and also providing them with technical support," Kakar said.
The WHO is also helping in fumigation, identifying which strain of dengue was involved and which localities need most attention.
Hospitals in Mingora are struggling to cope with the influx of patients, who complained against lack of facilities and basic medicine.
"We do not have enough beds, no medicine and, sometimes, we go outside to have blood tests in private laboratories," said Hamid Khan, a relative of a patient.
He said: "My brother had fever and we are worried because his blood test is positive."
There is no specific treatment for dengue but proper medical care for severe cases greatly reduces the risk of death, according to the WHO.
Officials in Mingora's Saidu Sharif Hospital said a special 100-bed ward had been set up to deal with dengue cases.
Shafiullah Khan, a senior health official, said a number of preventative measures including fumigation have been taken to control the outbreak.
"We have already launched a fumigation drive. Fumigation machines are spraying all over the Swat valley," Khan said.
"Health workers are also mobilising residents and a door-to-door awareness campaign is also on," he said.
People have been advised to use mosquito nets and insect repellents and avoid storing water in open pots where the larvae can breed.
Khan said dengue was spreading to other districts in the northwest.
"So far 300 cases of dengue-positive patients have been reported in nine other districts," he said, adding that three people died of the disease in the nine districts.