Looming health threat


The vector-borne dengue infection has become a major public health concern in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where cases of dengue fever have been on the rise in recent years and this is also evident from the statistics released by the provincial health department earlier this week. One of the primary causes of the increasing cases of dengue fever is the lack of awareness among people about the preventive measures like draining out stagnant water and eliminating breeding sites of mosquito. This lack of awareness is further compounded by the low literacy rate in the province. Another major cause of dengue fever in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the lack of effective surveillance and control measures on part of the authorities who have failed to implement effective mosquito control measures, such as fogging and insecticide spraying, in the affected areas.
For the year 2022, according to World Health Organization (WHO), 48,906 cases including 183 deaths have been reported in Pakistan, and the situation is highly alarming due to the start of summer season, which provides more conducive environment to mosquitoes to thrive and breed. According to the statistics of the previous year, more people are testing positive for dengue fever across the country. As of November 25, 2021, the Punjab province had reported 24,146 cases since January with Lahore topping the list of most affected cities of the province. Similarly, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported 10,223 cases, Sindh reported 5,548 cases, federally-administered ICT reported 5,261 cases, Balochistan reported 2054 cases, and AJK reported 1674 cases. Health department KP officials said they are receiving 10 to 15 cases per day. Now it is reported that Mardan, Bannu and Bajaur districts, which remained the hotspots of the mosquito-transmitted infection in 2022, are again reporting cases on daily basis, which call for timely and effective steps to prevent the health hazard from taking toll on the people.
To address this looming threat, several remedial measures need to be taken. First and foremost, there needs to be a massive public awareness campaign to educate people about the importance of preventive measures to ward off common diseases or those transmitted by mosquito bites. The government should launch an extensive media campaign, conduct seminars and workshops, and distribute informative brochures and pamphlets in schools, colleges and universities to spread awareness about dengue fever and how it can be prevented. Secondly, the government should take concrete steps to implement effective mosquito control measures. The government should conduct regular surveillance and monitoring of mosquito populations in the affected areas and initiate prompt and effective control measures, such as insecticide spraying, fogging, and larviciding.
The government also needs to take steps to improve health infrastructure in the province and provide better medical facilities and equipment to diagnose and treat dengue fever. A comprehensive approach that combines public awareness, effective mosquito control measures and improvements in the health infrastructure is needed to effectively control the spread of dengue fever in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.