Geneva, Nov 15 : Over the past several months, Pakistan hospitals have faced an influx of thousands of patients admitted with headache, muscle pain and high fever, all classic symptoms of dengue, a mosquito-borne virus that has struck large numbers of people across the country.
Pakistan health officials say they are battling one of the worst dengue outbreaks the country has experienced. One city hospital in Rawalpindi admitted more than 2000 dengue patients in a single weekend in October, straining emergency services, converting ordinary wards into dengue wards, and forcing staff to work overtime. As of early November, more than 45 000 people in Pakistan have been infected with the dengue virus in 2019.
Pakistan is not the only country confronting a surge in dengue cases this year. Bangladesh also has been in the grip of its worst dengue outbreak since the country first recorded an epidemic in 2000, with more than 92, 000 cases reported.
Health officials in the region blame the prolonged monsoon rains, which promote ideal breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus and thrive in warm, humid conditions, laying their eggs in used tyres, flowerpots, tree holes and any water-filled container. Numerous other countries in Asia, the Americas and Africa are reporting a higher incidence of dengue than previous years. WHO is working with local health officials to strengthen dengue outbreak alert systems and improve vector control strategies to halt the spread of the virus.
“The rise in outbreaks this year is a wake-up call for governments, policymakers and researchers to strengthen surveillance and control programmes and to step up prevention strategies to control this phenomenal spread of dengue and other vector-borne viruses,” says Dr Raman Velayudhan, coordinator, WHO’s vector management programme in Geneva.