- Highest figures to date
Dengue virus has claimed 47 lives this year across Pakistan and with new cases still being reported it seems this figure will increase in the coming days. In total more than 30,000 cases have been reported so far from major cities, which is the highest number ever recorded in the country’s history. Islamabad has been hit the worst, followed by Punjab and Sindh, and perhaps the only reason casualties are relatively minimal are the lessons learned from the 2011 epidemic when 370 died. One reason being cited for the higher number of cases is better surveillance and reporting than before, which is welcome as it will enable the relevant authorities to identify areas that are particularly problematic and shift more of their focus and resources there in the future. This is being claimed by the Chief of Disease Surveillance Division at the National Institute of Health; hopefully this plethora of data is not wasted and is rather organized in a way that it is useful at a later date. A detailed report on this year’s outbreak should be prepared and made public as well. Regionally speaking, 2019 was one of the worst years for countries that are most vulnerable. Philippines for example saw 98 percent more cases than last year, that has resulted in 622 deaths, mostly children under the age of 10, and there has been a similar doubling in number of cases in Malaysia, Vietnam and Bangladesh. The government is now claiming success over how Pakistan has been relatively less affected. In a country where success has many fathers and failure is an orphan, such comparisons can become a source of complacency.
Lack of environmental cleanliness, climate change (increased humidity and rainfall) and a new strain of the virus are major reasons for the severe reemergence of dengue this year in various countries, even in countries like Cuba that had completely eradicated the virus. It is therefore imperative that the government, before declaring any sort of comparative victory, understand that not every year will be as forgiving. A concerted effort to clean urban areas in all provinces, a wide-ranging easily accessible early detection apparatus and regular fumigation exercises are the only methods to remain one step ahead of this deadly virus.