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EDITORIAL: Seasonal outbreak of dengue epidemic has become a regular public health hazard in this country since 2005. This season’s first case emerged on Thursday in Rawalpindi where a female patient was admitted to a local hospital. Going by the previous years’ pattern of the epidemic, it is a matter of time before the dengue fever causing vectors spread to other areas.

Last year, as many as 48,906 cases were reported from Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) while 183 people succumbed to the infection. The worst affected were the urban centres of Punjab, in particular Rawalpindi and Lahore. Much of this suffering could have been averted had the authorities concerned decided to benefit from the anti-dengue strategy devised by the previous government.

It may be recalled that when dengue mosquito reared its ugly head in Punjab in 2014 Punjab, the then chief minister of the province, Shehbaz Sharif, had sought expert opinion from Sri Lanka, which had successfully defeated the disease causing mosquito, as well as from some other sources. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were developed for prevention and control of dengue. Since this mosquito lays eggs in clean water collected in unused tyres, stagnant rainwater on roads, flower pots and utensils in homes, local administrations were tasked to scan and clear all such places and spray them with certain chemicals.

Mass fumigation campaigns were also undertaken. In the presence of these tried and tested SOPs, the provincial authorities did not have to scratch their heads anew to figure out ways to deal with the dengue mosquito when it appeared last year. Yet they waited for far too long to act. The stated reason for ignoring fumigations was that the particular chemicals used for the purpose could cause various breathing and other health problems, which is an important consideration, indeed. But cleaning up of water from homes, tyre shops and public places was started too late. Hopefully, all concerned are better prepared this time to handle the impending menace.

It is good to note that in the case of Rawalpindi, on the detection of the very first case, the district administration has moved quickly to take preventive measures. Assistant commissioners have been asked to hold Emergency Response Committee meetings twice a week while District Response Committee is to meet once a week.

Water and Sanitation Agency is to form three teams to help the District Health Authority and Metropolitan Corporation in cleaning of drains and other dengue breeding spots. Also, citizens have been asked to ensure water does not accumulate in or near their homes. The district administration has decided to cut water and electricity connections of houses where dengue larvae are repeatedly detected. This may sound rather harsh, but not considering the price of negligent behaviour. Authorities in other cities of Punjab as well as Sindh and KP should follow suit.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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