Surge in varied diseases attributed to livestock movement and rainfall

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KARACHI, Aug. 29 (APP)- Significant movement of livestock to
cities during Eid-ul-Adha coupled with persistent rainfall is exposing
new areas of the country to dangerous vector-borne diseases like
Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) and chikungunya.
Health researchers and infectious disease specialists addressing
a capacity-building session for Sindh-based doctors, jointly organized
by Directorate of Health Services and World Health Organization (WHO)
at Aga Khan University warned that seasonal changes were also
increasing risk of vector-borne diseases (VBD).
The event was aimed at disseminating the latest knowledge about
diagnosis and management of complicated cases of CCHF, chikungunya,
dengue, malaria, naegleria and West Nile virus among the province
based physicians.
Experts noted that cases of CCHF, a deadly disease which has been
found in animals in Balochistan and Kashmir, are being detected in new
areas of the country such as Bahawalpur in Punjab.
“There has been a rising trend of CCHF cases and this is likely
to intensify as Eid approaches,” they warned while highlighting
absence of a screening mechanism for cattle.
Prevalence of poor hygiene practices among butchers was cited to
be another reason for the new cases of CCHF.
Professor Bushra Jamil from the department of medicine at Aga
Khan University said CCHF was a life-threatening illness that required
immediate treatment.
Symptoms of CCHF were cited to include severe abdominal pain as
well as the persistence of fever.
In the given situation doctors were urged to quickly ascertain
the patient’s history of interacting with livestock and to urgently
order specialized tests for CCHF.
The country was said to be also at high risk of disease outbreaks
because of unplanned expansion in cities, unsafe drinking water,
inadequate sanitation, poor socioeconomic conditions, low health
awareness and inadequate vaccination coverage.
In the session on chikungunya, experts stated that the country
noticed its first-ever outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease in
Karachi in December 2016.
Over 2,000 people contracted the disease with the majority of
cases being reported at Malir and Korangi in Karachi they said
mentioning that new cases have been reported in Thar.
Experts mentioned that heavy rainfall in areas with poor
sanitation facilities created an ideal environment for the breeding of
mosquitos, that carry the virus.
Speakers noted that patients suffering from chikungunya often
came to the hospital with high-grade fever: a symptom that is often
seen with other diseases such as malaria and dengue.
To identify the disease correctly and to rule out malaria,
experts urged doctors to conduct blood culture and routine laboratory
tests for every case of fever which requires hospitalization. Doctors
should then concentrate on treating the effects of chikungunya such as
severe joint pain.
Mild cases, they said can be treated with painkillers, but if a
patient is experiencing incapacitating pain that does not go away with
regular analgesics; steroids should be used.
“Many misconceptions are present about chikungunya being a deadly
disease. However, most patients make a full recovery. As doctors
improve their diagnosis skills we should be able to reduce the health
effects of this disease,” said Dr Nida Siddiqui, a WHO consultant on
communicable diseases.
Other sessions at the event saw health experts highlight the need
to improve the quality of the country’s water supply to prevent cases
of naegleria, a deadly brain infection.
Speakers shared that simple steps that can be taken at home like
adding two tablespoons of chlorine solution to water tanks can avert
the onset of naegleria. They also called on water board authorities
and local governments to improve systems to pump and chlorinate water.
Dr. Anum Ahmed, representing the Directorate of Health Services –
Sindh said the two-day capacity building session that concluded
Tuesday was the first of three such events to improve the treatment of
vector-borne and other emerging infections.
Future events will consider how to improve planning mechanisms
and how to tackle issues such as the management of organisms and
animals that spread diseases, she added.
Sessions under the two-day event are in line with global efforts
to achieve targets under goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Goal 3: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all
ages, calls for special efforts to combat the spread of malaria,
water-borne diseases and other communicable illnesses by 2030.