ISLAMABAD / Karachi - Shehla Ambreen / syed jafar askari - “More than half of the world’s population is at risk from diseases such as malaria, dengue, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, schistosomiasis, and yellow fever, carried by mosquitoes, flies, ticks, water snails and other vectors. Every year, more than one billion people are infected and more than one million die from vector-borne diseases”, says a news release by World Health Organisation (WHO) released here on Sunday in connection with the World Health Day.
With this year’s slogan “Small bite, big threat” the World Health Day will be marked today. Every year a particular theme is employed to highlight any health related issue and for this year it is “vector borne diseases”.
A Vector is an organism that carries and transmits a particular pathogen (infectious agent) from one infected organism to another causing an illness termed as a vector borne disease.
About 180 million Pakistanis are among the 2.5 billion people vulnerable to dengue (a vector borne disease, according to the WHO.
“We need a group effort of public, civil society organizations and government to prevent people from malaria and dengue. Mass awareness programmes about how to end breeding places for mosquitoes and other preventive measures in schools, colleges, mosques, offices and through media can be effective”, said Dr. Waseem Khwaja, physician at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).
Dr. Shajee Saddique, associate professor of medicine at PIMS, says simple dengue typically causes fever that rests for four to five days and 98 per cent patients recover from it. Rest of the one or two percent patients die due to insufficient fluid intake or dengue hemorrhagic fever, a condition in which patients have antibodies to dengue virus due to an earlier infection.
“We should focus on prevention. Breeding places for mosquitoes are a major threat as mosquitoes cause malaria and transfer dengue virus from one infected person to another person,” he added.
The country is going to celebrate World Health Day today (Monday) to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948, despite the majority of our population has no access to primary health care, emergency obstetrical care or emergency health care throughout Pakistan.
The nation is facing the worst health care problems, but the government plays a role of silent spectator. Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) estimates that one child dies every minute from EPI disease, Diarrhoea and Acute Respiratory infection; about 400,000 infants die in first year of life every year, while 30,000 women die from pregnancy related causes. But the government claims that more money is being spent on the health of the nation as compared to previous years.
Talking on the issue, the central leader of PMA, Dr Qaiser Sajjad told The Nation that numbers of cases of oral cancer have been increasing rapidly. This is number one cancer among men in Pakistan; most common cause is betel nuts (Chalia), Manpuri, Ghutka, Nuswar etc, he said.
“According to figures quoted by international and national agencies, the population of Pakistan has soared to more than 173 million. At least a third of the population is living below poverty line. We have an annual fertility rate of 3.6 per cent with a life expectancy of 63.6 years for men and 65.4 for women. Around 25 million smokers are consuming 36 billion cigarettes in the country. Sheesha is more hazardous than cigarettes. Smoking of Sheesha for One hour at Café is equal to smoking of 200 cigarettes. But you can find Sheesha Café everywhere in the city and the country as well because the government has no interest in the public health issues,” said and added that the world health day provides an opportunity for individuals in every community to get involved in activities that can lead to better health, while this year the topic for 2014 is vector-borne diseases.
DUHS OBSERVES WORLD HEALTH DAY
Conversely, Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS has organized an Awareness Seminar on World Health Day 2014 at its Ojha Campus, in which the experts said that 50 per cent of the world population is at risk of vector borne diseases.
Speaking at the seminar, PVC DUHS Prof. M. Umar Farooq, Prof. Illahi Bux Soomro, Dr. Kashif Shafique, Dr. Akhtar Ali Baloch, Prof. Shaheen Sharafat, Dr. Rafiq Khanani and Prof. Tahir Masood, said that vector-borne diseases accounts for more than 17 per cent of all infectious diseases causing more than 1 million deaths annually.
They said, “More than 2.5 billion people in over 100 countries are at risk of contracting dengue alone. Pakistan has been experiencing an epidemic of dengue fever since 2010 resulting in deaths. There is need to provide technical support and guidance to countries that can effectively manage cases and outbreaks. This year World Health Day campaign advocates for health authorities in countries where vector-borne diseases are a public health problem or emerging threat, to put in place measures to improve surveillance and protection. Malaria causes more than 600 000 deaths every year globally, most of them children under 5 years of age.
In November 2011, Dengue has killed over 300 people in the last several months and over 14,000 are infected by this mosquito born disease. Majority of the people infected are from the Lahore area in Punjab, Pakistan. Pakistan has been experiencing an epidemic of dengue fever that has caused 16 580 confirmed cases and 257 deaths in Lahore and nearly 5000 cases and 60 deaths reported from the rest of the country. The three provinces facing the epidemic are Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh. With an estimated burden of 1.5 million cases annually, Pakistan has been categorized by WHO in the Group 3 countries of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, along with Afghanistan, Djibouti, Somalia. The poorest of the poor in vulnerable communities, living in remote rural areas with limited access to health facilities, suffer the most. These diseases affect urban, peri-urban and rural communities but thrive predominantly among communities with poor living conditions –particularly lack of access to adequate housing, safe drinking water and sanitation.