Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dengue Outbreak in Pakistan

Over the course of the last two months, Pakistan has been experiencing a worsening outbreak of dengue. Though the disease is endemic to the region, the number of cases in the last two months has already exceeded the total number of cases reported last year according to CNN. For now, the majority of the cases have been centralized in the metropolis of Lahore, which is in the East and near the border with India. This makes sense as the mosquito that carries dengue thrives in urban and suburban areas where stagnant water sources, such as used tires, are abundant, according to the WHO.

Dengue fever can carry a large risk of death if it develops into its more severe form, Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever(DHF) which has a mortality of 20% when left untreated. Fortunately, proper care by doctors experienced in the nature of DHF and its mechanism of mortality, circulatory failure and severely low blood pressure, can lower that rate to 1%. That said, the ability to treat patients is obviously reduced in a less-developed and potentially unstable country such as Pakistan, which may be exacerbated by the recent, devastating flooding in the Southeast. On top of this, there is no specific, anti-viral treatment for dengue, and no vaccine has been deployed in the field. For now, governments seeking preventive measures are forced to focus on containing the mosquito vector of the disease with mass fumigations, as seen in the article, and measures to reduce the amount of standing water in the city. Still, the WHO reports that containment of dengue requires large, community-based efforts to treat, cover, or remove any sources of standing water and that large fumigation efforts must be carefully monitored to ensure effectiveness.

That being said, the Dengue outbreak in Pakistan has received attention primarily due to its high concentration and relative severity compared to the norm. The WHO estimates that over 50 million people are affected by the disease in over 100 endemic countries, the majority of which are in Southeast Asia and Latin America. Because of this, dengue represents an interesting target for novel treatments, but it also poses a difficult challenge due to its variant nature. Dengue fever can be caused by four different, closely related viruses that are difficult to model in the lab. Still, further research can only do so much, and even if a vaccine were discovered, the threat of further outbreaks can only be eliminated by massive improvements in hygiene and civic regulation throughout the third world, a feature that is common to many diseases that still plague us.

CNN Article about Outbreak

WHO Page on Dengue

-Zachary Herrera

No comments: