Karachi: Poor measures of prevention implemented by the health authorities in Sindh are giving rise to an outbreak of the Zika Virus in Karachi, which is the largest city of Pakistan, warned health experts.

Zika infection during pregnancy can cause severe brain defects. It is also linked to other problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and other birth defects. There have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, in areas affected by Zika.

Sobia Parveen, 26, spends her days in bed because she was infected with Chikungunya during the 2016 outbreak in Karachi.

“I suffer from arthritis, swollen ankles, and fatigue,” she said, adding that she can no longer walk properly.

According to Sobia, she would do the domestic chores all by herself but since she contracted Chikungunya, she needs support to help her with everything.

“I was admitted to the hospital when I first heard about Chikungunya,” said Parveen while talking to News Lens Pakistan.

“I do not feel like I used to before I was infected with Chikungunya. I have continuous arthritic pain, and sometimes I can’t even taste food properly,” she added.

The doctor has prescribed plentiful intake of fluids and rest. They also told me to avoid pain killers, Sobia added.

Dr. Ahsan Qaiser Sajjad, General Secretary of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), said that an outbreak of Zika is inevitable in Karachi. Two outbreaks of Dengue and Chikungunya have already infested the city, while the former continues to pose problems, he said.

Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika Virus are carried by the same type of female mosquito called Aedes Aegypti, which is why a Zika Virus outbreak is inevitable in Karachi, Sajjad told News Lens Pakistan.

In connection to the looming threat, PMA released an alert for an outbreak of Zika Virus in January, 2017. Similarly, PMA released an alert in 2007 for Chikungunya, said Dr. Ahsan Qaiser Sajjad.

“Nobody heeded the alerts being issued and an outbreak occurred in 2016 after 10 years of warnings by the PMA,” he said.

“Aedes Aegypti larvae exist in Karachi on a massive scale,” Qaiser claimed.

Dr. Masood Ahmed Solangi, the focal person at Health Department Sindh for Chikungunya, also confirmed that a Zika Virus attack is possible in Karachi due to the presence of Aedes Aegypti.

“Karachi is an endemic area, as outbreaks of Dengue and Chikungunya are still surfacing in the city,” Said Solangi.

The focal person at Health Department Sindh said that Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes continue to exist in the city. “Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever are all spread by the same female mosquito, which is why an outbreak of Zika is expected in the city,” he added.

According to the Dengue cell established by the Government of Sindh, three patients of dengue died out of 20,540 in 2016, 265 patients of Dengue fever have been registered since January 2017 to 25 June 2017 and not a single death has been reported so far.

“During an outbreak of Chikungunya in 2016, 3500 patients were registered in Karachi, the registered patients included those from Tharparkar, Eastern district of Sindh, 500 km away from Karachi,” reports Health department Sindh.

Information cell of Health Department Sindh reported that of the 215 patients admitted in District Hospital Tharparkar, 61 out of 95 blood samples were found positive.

A team sent by World Health Organization (WHO) visited Chikungunya infected Karachi for three days.

WHO confirmed that Karachi continues to respond to an outbreak of Chikungunya since December, 2016.

According to the WHO fact sheet  released in April 2017, Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes including Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus mosquitoes. The disease shares some clinical symptoms with Dengue and Zika. WHO reports say that Chikungunya occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

 

“Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes Aegypti. This is the same mosquito that transmits Dengue, Chikungunya and yellow fever,” WHO findings reported.

According to WHO, the Zika Virus microcephaly is a condition where a baby is born with a small head or the head stops growing after birth.

The World Health Organization advised the Government of Sindh to target mosquito habitats and breeding grounds  such as stagnant water, sewers and garbage landfills.

Dr. Masood Ahmed Solangi revealed that no concrete measures have been taken by the health authorities to prevent Zika virus from spreading in Sindh.

“An outbreak of Chikungunya is under control in the city but the influx of patients infected with Chikungunya continues nonetheless,” he added.

“Mosquito borne disease are also transmitted by infected persons, and international travelers, but unfortunately our airports lack the necessary surveillance and screening systems” said Solangi.

While talking to News Lens Pakistan, he said that the WHO team visited areas affected by Chikungunya, and they suggested strong prevention measures against breeding grounds and larvae of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, but the authorities have yet to take any measures.

“Studies reveal that mosquito larvae exist in clean stagnant water, but the current Chikungunya outbreak exposed that the larvae are also present in sewage water,” he explained.

The WHO team visited Karachi for three days; where they noted the existence of larvae in sewerage water, he told.

“A large amount of stagnant water accumulates in the city during the monsoon season, which can lead to an increased threat of mosquito borne diseases,” said Solangi.

KW&SB are working to drain the rainwater but it will take week or so, he added.

Dr. Ajeet Kumar, General Physician, said that the Chikungunya disease has no definite period and no particular time for arthritis pain.

“The virus becomes effective within 4 to 7 days and joint pains continue for months, sometimes even a year,” he added.

He criticized health authorities for utilizing major amounts of budget on the cure.

“If the funds, were utilized towards prevention the relief would get to people before they suffer from these diseases,” he said.

Dr Sajjad also slammed health authorities for ignoring prevention measures in the province, particularly within the remit of affected area by Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

“Health authorities in Sindh prefer cure rather than prevention,” he concluded.

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