- Suspected cases on the rise
The country has barely got a grip on the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, most experts would say that it has not really got a grip, because while deaths are down, a vaccine is still not available, and an array of precautions and SOPs are still mandatory, not so much to avoid the dread disease, as to palliate its worst effects. Yet with the coronavirus pandemic still far from over, there are disturbing signs that an old hazard, in the shape of dengue fever, might be rearing its head again. Even though the monsoon is not yet over, there have already been 51 cases in Punjab since January, with the latest being reported from Toba Tek Singh on Saturday. Though only one case was reported, it was amongst 630 suspected cases. There was also dengue mosquito larva found at 9271 spots in the province in the last week.
Dengue, like the coronavirus, is a viral disease, but the infection is spread by a vector, a mosquito, which transmits the virus through its bite. Dengue is a tropical disease, and has grown in Pakistan beyond its East African habitat because of global warming. The first major outbreak was in 2011, when 300 people died of it. The disease has remained as an annual occurrence, mainly because the mosquito carrying the disease has not been eradicated.
The elimination of dengue will only occur if standing water is drained promptly, before the mosquito has had a chance to breed. This implies that people will have to observe the precautions against the spread of the dengue vector, while continuing to observe the SOPs against covid-19. Another corollary is that the Punjab government must not ignore this public health threat, while at the same time, not allowing it to distract it from the covid-19 menace. The dengue fight is similar to that against malaria, another disease with a mosquito vector. While malaria has not been eliminated, it is no longer the widespread killer it was not all that long ago. Making dengue join it should not be beyond us.