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‘Unsafe livestock movement exposing cities to Congo fever’

Movement of cattle to various cities and towns for Eidul Azha and persistent rains have left entire cities vulnerable to the Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) that was earlier confined to a few areas of Balochistan.

This was observed by experts during a session held at Aga Khan University on Tuesday. The two-day event, organised by the World Heath Organisation and Directorate of Health Services, Karachi, aimed at disseminating information regarding the latest diagnosis methods and treatment of complicated diseases such as CCHF, Chikungunya, Dengue, Malaria, Naegleria fowleri and West Nile virus.

Another concern expressed by the health experts was the likely spread of Chikungunya to other parts of the country from Karachi owing to persistent rains They observed that cases of the deadly Congo fever, initially detected in Balochistan and Kashmir, are now being reported from other areas of the country too, such as from Bahawalpur in Punjab.

“There has been a rise in Congo fever cases and they number is expected to rise further as Eid approaches. Absence of a screening mechanism for cattle and poor hygiene practices of butchers are two main reasons for the spread of the disease,” said AKU Department of Medicine professor, Bushra Jamil.

The medical practitioners stressed that CCHF was a life threatening illness that requires immediate medical treatment. Severe abdominal pain and persistent fever were identified as symptoms of the fever.

Discussing the disease’s treatment, the speakers urged doctors to immediately ascertain the patient’s history of interacting with livestock and have them tested for CCHF.

Chikungunya

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 majority of the cases being reported in Malir and Korangi. Since then new cases have been reported in Thar. Experts added that heavy rainfall in areas with poor sanitation create an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes which carry the disease.

Speakers observed that patients suffering from Chikungunya often come to the hospital with high fever, a symptom that is common for other diseases too 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 that requires hospitalisation.

Doctors should then concentrate on treating the effects of Chikungunya such as severe joint pain. Mild cases can be treated with painkillers, but if the pain is unbearable and is not going away with regular analgesics, steroids should be used.

“There are many misconceptions 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,” Professor Bushra added.

During other sessions, health experts highlighted the need to improve the quality of the potable water being supplied country-wide to prevent Naegleria fowleri – deadly brain infection – from spreading.

The health experts observed that people can take precautionary measures by adding two tablespoons of chlorine in their water tanks. They also called on water board authorities and local governments to improve pumping and water chlorination systems.

Dr Nida Siddiqui, a consultant on communicable diseases to the WHO, said, “Pakistan is at high risk of disease outbreaks because of a range of factors such as overcrowded cities, unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, poor socioeconomic conditions, low health awareness and inadequate vaccination coverage.

“This two-day capacity building session is 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 held under the two-day event were in line with global efforts to achieve targets under goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 3 focuses on ensuring healthy lives and promoting 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.

Reporter. ‘Unsafe livestock movement exposing cities to Congo fever’. The News, August 30, 2017.

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