Multan road has been revamped, but the drain in the centre of the road remains, filled with plastic bags and other waste materials. This drain, and many thousands like it across Pakistan, will inevitably become a breeding ground for the dengue virus if the concerned departments do not take timely action.

The Punjab government has recently taken some measures to control dengue. Messages to help prevent the disease are being displayed in various parts of Punjab, on billboards, banners etc. Special cells have been established in Islamabad, to coordinate with other departments to treat and prevent dengue. Adviser to Chief Minister on Health, Khawaja Salman Rafique says that the data of dengue patients is being collected by the Health Department to upgrade their response to dengue cases and vector surveillance. But is this enough to counter the worst epidemic in Punjab’s recent history?

Clearly, the government has arrangements to tackle an outbreak. But there are some obvious gaps in the prevention plan, the key to which would be clearing the standing water. This is even more important in the heavily populated urban areas like Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi etc, where the virus could spread easily.

Viruses like dengue have always been an enigma for scientists because they mutate and the antibiotics stop working on them. The virus can become resistant to drugs over a period of time, becoming harder to treat. Alarmingly, Civil Hospital Karachi reported last month that the dengue cases are now coming at different times of the year and unlike before, the virus can now breed in sewage water and cold temperatures.

In March, the Provincial Minister for Labour and Manpower, Raja Ashfaq Sarwar said that due to high rainfall, the risk of dengue has increased. Thousands of people, who live around Multan Road are at risk, along with the millions of others who live around these open drains in Pakistan. Removing these drains is a basic requirement and should come before other development plans.