Earlier this week, 73 unconfirmed cases of dengue were reported in Punjab, Pakistan causing increased concern over the spread of the virus. According to the Pakistani Ministry of Health, 53 cases of dengue were reported in Lahore alone, in various hospitals, including 31 in the Mayo Hospital and 13 in Ganga Ram Hospital. Five cases have been reported in Shekihepura, three in Gujranwala, and two in Sialkot, in addition to cases reported in several other districts.
Despite reports that the Ministry of Health has taken immediate steps to stop the further spread of this disease, an additional three dozen suspected patients have appeared in the city’s public and private hospitals, challenging the government’s claims that is has taken pre-emptive measures to control the Aedes mosquito, the genus of mosquitos known to transmit the dengue virus.
The Pakistani Health Department, in collaboration with the Dengue Experts Advisory Group headed by Professor Faisal Masood Malik, issued instructions to all public-sector hospitals to carry out NS-1 tests in all the suspected dengue patients to confirm whether or not they carried the virus. The NS-1 antigen test can rapidly detect the dengue virus days before antibodies appear.
Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is an infectious tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms of dengue fever include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, and a unique skin rash that is similar to the skin rash found in patients with measles. A small proportion of dengue cases, mainly in children, can become life threatening and advance into dengue hemorrhagic fever. With no specific antiviral medicines for dengue, and with no current vaccines available to prevent infection, the most effective preventative measure is the control of mosquitos in high risk areas.