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Pakistan’s Swat Valley hit by dengue

Oct 15, 2013

Health officials say nearly 8,000 people have tested positive for the virus and that the death toll could be much higher than 22 in Pakhtunkhwa Province.

More than 1,000 people a day are seeking dengue fever tests in Swat District in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP). At least 22 have died and holiday leave has been cancelled for district medical staff.

The outbreak began in Swat in mid-August and has spread to neighbouring districts. Health officials say nearly 8,000 people have tested positive for the virus and that the death toll could be much higher than 22, as most people appear not to be seeking medical treatment.

The number of infections is on a par with an outbreak of dengue fever in 2011 in Lahore in which more than 17,000 people were infected and over 300 died in four months.

Shifa Medical Complex in Swat's biggest city, Mingora, is full of dengue patients waiting for, or receiving, treatment. One of the doctors, Abdul Wasih, says most of the over 100 patients a day coming to his private clinic there are seeking treatment for dengue.

A number of top officials, including the KP chief minister and governor, have visited Mingora to see the epidemic first hand. KP has released more than Rs. 65 million (US$612,000) in emergency aid to deal with the outbreak.

A few blocks away at the Saidu Teaching Hospital, medical doctor Wasil Ahmad, recalls the latest death: a 22-year-old man from the village of Bishbanr Khwar, some 20 km away.

“He came too late,” said Ahmad, who is in charge of the dengue cell at the hospital. “First he went to a private clinic; they did not test him properly and prescribed garbage [drugs], [thinking] it was malaria or typhoid.”

When the man's fever did not subside after five days, he came to the Saidu Teaching Hospital, but by then he had suffered haemorrhaging and gone into shock, the final stage of dengue fever.

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SOURCE: IRIN

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