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Dengue alert in Peshawar

Peshawar hospitals are receiving dengue patients both from city suburbs and inner city with health authorities active to deal with the epidemic

Dengue alert in Peshawar
A resident of Tehkal talking about the issue.

Dengue fever has silently claimed lives of five persons in Peshawar in recent weeks as one particular area of the city has become a hub of the deadly virus in recent months.

All the five persons who died of dengue belonged to Tehkal, a suburban area that lies on the northern side of the Grand Trunk Road between Peshawar Cantonment and the posh University Town. They were all admitted in Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) Peshawar. Most of the patients admitted at the KTH also belong to Tehkal.

Latest report of Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) reveals that at least 521 of the 3,071 patients screened for dengue virus were tested positive at the health facility. Of these, 256 were admitted to the hospital for proper treatment and of them 158 patients were discharged after recovery. As of August 13, at least 93 patients are still in hospital.

Similarly, Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) has reported arrival of at least 30 dengue patients since the start of 2017. Twenty patients were discharged from the facility after treatment while 10 are under treatment and in stable condition.

Tauheed Zulfiqar, media coordinator at the HMC informed that 27 of the dengue patients that came to HMC for treatment belonged to Tehkal. “All except three dengue patients were from Tehkal area. We only received one patient each from Batkhela, Mardan and Hayatabad. None of the dengue patients admitted at the HMC has expired and none is in serious condition,” she explained. Tauheed added that the facility had established isolation rooms for dengue patients in each ward and dedicated doctors and nurses were taking care of them round the clock.

Sudden increase in the number of dengue patients in recent weeks has awakened the provincial and local government as the health authorities have become active to deal with the epidemic.

Thankfully, the province’s largest health facility Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) has reported only nine dengue cases in the past three months. “We have only five dengue patients at the hospital at the moment. Three patients belong to the inner city whereas the remaining two patients are from Tehkal and Gulberg area,” Asim Khan of the LRH media cell informed this scribe.

Locals in Tehkal Payan put the number of casualties due to dengue at eight. They point out one particular village Gujarano Kandai to have most patients. Muhammad Akbar, a resident of Tehkal informed TNS, “All the cases have emerged in Tehkal Payan while Tehkal Bala is still safe. People there are mostly unfamiliar with any report of the virus.”

However, government’s claims of initiating massive awareness campaigns in the area were questioned by a local, Naqeeb Khan. “I don’t know of any awareness programme. The only teams that visited our homes were officials threatening us of penalties if we did not remove any stagnant water from our homes and surroundings,” Naqeeb Khan claimed.

Sudden increase in the number of dengue patients in recent weeks has awakened the provincial and local government as the health authorities have become active to deal with the epidemic. Government officials are sitting together with health officials, including representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to come up with effective plans for tackling the issue. And it seems to be working as all major health facilities in Peshawar are reporting reduced number of new dengue patients.

Dr Khalid Shahab, Medical Officer at the KTH believes that better awareness campaigns and due attention at the hospitals are giving positive results. “Not long ago, KTH was receiving as high as 15-17 dengue patients every day. That has now come down to less than five patients,” Dr Khalid informs.

“Though most of the patients are coming from Tehkal it’s not the only place the government should concentrate on as we have also received a number of patients from Sarban area in the Peshtakhara locality of Peshawar,” Dr Khalid Shahab adds.

One of Dr Shahab’s dengue patients was a female from Hayatabad who had contracted the virus in Naran during a family trip. “The family had to shorten their vacations as she had high fever. Luckily she had received early treatment at the Ayub Teaching Hospital in Abbottabad before coming to KTH,” Dr Khalid Shahab says, adding that population of dengue mosquitoes multiply faster in colder places.

The dengue mosquitoes are active during daylight only for about five hours. “The first two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset are when these mosquitoes are most active. This is when a bite from female dengue mosquito (Aedes Aegypti) can cause the spread of the virus among healthy persons.” Dr Khalid added.

Symptoms of dengue fever include very high fever that usually begin four to six days after infection and last for up to 10 days. Severe headaches, pains in joints, muscles and in the back of the eyes, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, skin rashes and mild bleeding from nose or gums.

Precautionary measures against dengue include wearing bright colours, preferably white and full-sleeved dresses. But most important is to remove stagnant water, cover water tanks and pots as they serve as hatcheries for dengue mosquitoes.

Apart from establishing dedicated facilities, including six-beds each in all units and an isolation ward in the HMC, isolation rooms in the Bolton Block of LRH and a 30-bed special facility at KTH for dengue patients, the provincial government is at last taking precautionary measures to deal with the dengue crisis.

Arif Yousaf, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) is part of the team that is taking steps to contain the spread of dengue to other parts of Peshawar. In a recent meeting, representatives of the local government, district health officer, director general health and representatives of the WHO discussed the dengue issue in Peshawar.

Arif Yousaf says, “Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has assured his full support to the local government and health authorities to deal with dengue. “The CM has instructed for a full-fledged awareness campaign in the affected areas. He has also directed for provision of free water cleaning tablets and mosquito repellents,” the MPA reveals.

“The WHO praised the KP government for countering dengue issue. We have decided to give mosquito repellents to the Extended Program on Immunisation (EPI) teams for free distribution to families during vaccination drives,” Arif Yousaf claims.

The authorities will also use water purifying tablets in the water distribution system in Tehkal and Peshtakhara. However, Arif Yousaf says the government could not fight against dengue alone as the mosquitoes mostly hatch at homes and public support is a must in making the fight against dengue a success.

Arshad Yusufzai

The writer is a Peshawar based freelance journalist and has worked for Voice of America and The ICRC. Connect with him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ayusufzai.

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