QUETTA: Health officials expressed alarm at the outbreak of dengue virus in southwestern Pakistan’s district Kech on Thursday, as official data showed the infection claimed two lives and infected over 2,000 people during the months of April and May.
Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease that is transmitted from humans to mosquitoes. In its most lethal form, the disease is known to be fatal. Patients who are infected with dengue suffer severe flu-like symptoms, including high fever, severe headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, and vomiting that can last for a week.
Data by the Provincial Malaria Program showed district Kech reported 2,131 dengue cases in April and May. Two patients also died from the virus while undergoing treatment in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi.
“Due to the weather changes, we have been witnessing a dengue outbreak in Kech district because every year after the mid of May, the temperature increases up to 37 degrees in which dengue mosquitoes can’t survive,” Dr. Meer Yousaf, head of the Provincial Malaria Program, told Arab News.
“But for this season, the temperature has not increased.”
Balochistan health officials say only three districts in the province, namely Kech, Gwadar, and Lasbela, were declared high-risk places for the virus. However, he said only district Kech has reported a gradual surge in positive cases over the last six years.
Yousaf said despite intense insecticide fogging, the virus cannot be stopped from spreading until the masses don’t cooperate with the government to take preventive measures within their homes.
Dr. Khalid Baloch, the medical superintendent at District Headquarter Hospital Kech, said authorities are conducting daily tests of over 200 people in the district out of which 30 plus people are testing positive.
“We have established a ten-bed isolation ward in the hospital but due to the burgeoning number of patients, many are now admitted in general wards,” Baloch told Arab News.
He said that out of over 5,000 dengue tests conducted in May 2023, a total of 1,016 patients tested positive for the infection. “We are now treating critical patients inside the dengue ward but still many patients are moving to Karachi for dengue treatment,” he added.
Kech government officials say they have been conducting anti-dengue measures such as spraying insecticides to kill mosquitoes. However, local residents deny these claims.
“The health authorities’ claims of anti-dengue spray in Turbat city and other areas of the district are totally false because the hospital is filled with dengue patients,” Yasir Aslam Baloch, a local journalist, told Arab News.
Yousaf said health authorities were running awareness campaigns against the disease. However, he said people were not taking preventive measures.
“Due to the shortage of clean water, the majority of people place their uncovered water buckets in their courtyards which is an active source for dengue mosquito breeding,” he said, expressing the fear that the coming monsoon season would cause a further spike in dengue cases in the district.