FAISALABAD - Adviser to Punjab Chief Minister on Dengue Zakia Shahnawaz on Monday said the possibility of widespread outbreak of dengue virus this year loomed large. Keeping in view, we have to step up efforts for mobilizing the public by creating awareness in a bid to curbing the menace as the season is approaching fast.

She was speaking at the inaugural session of international symposium titled “Diet as an Adjunctive Measure for Prevention and Management of Dengue Prevention” arranged by the National Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFSAT), University of Agriculture, Faisalabad here on Monday.

Indonesian Ambassador to Pakistan HE Ishak Latuconsia, Punjab Medical College Principal Dr Riaz Hussain Dab, UAF Vice Chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan and NIFSAT Director General Dr Faqir Muhammad Anjum also spoke on the occasion.

The adviser claimed that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had taken tangible steps to overcome the epidemic as the government was committed to making all-out efforts. She said that the government was providing funds to conduct researches in this regard. She urged the UAF scientists to come forward to expedite the efforts of the government for fighting the virus by carrying out valuable researches as the Punjab was the worst affected province by the epidemic. The government has approved 1,800 posts of dengue experts to fight the disease, she said and added that it would result in bringing positive changes in the approach towards the elimination of the menace. Zakia Shahnawaz also thanked Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia for extending their all assistance in fighting against the dengue virus.

Speaking on the occasion, Indonesian Ambassador Ishak Latuconsia said that on June 15,2011, as many as 10 Asian countries had joined hands to curb the menace through collaborated efforts. He praised the Punjab government for the strenuous efforts for tackling the epidemic and bring down the mortality rate which was low compared to other countries. He said that Indonesian team had been sent to Punjab in a bid to train the manpower on dengue and providing technical assistance to the government. He expressed his hope that the symposium would help chalk out a comprehensive strategy to curtail the virus that had taken many lives last year.

In his speech, UAF VC Dr Iqrar said that there were always an opportunity in every crisis and the university was determined to face the challenges. He urged all the regional countries to increase the pace of collaboration for the common cause of making the zone a dengue free as the virus had no boundaries. He said that the diet played a vital role in the fighting against viruses. Keeping in view, the university has launched a BSc programme in Human Nutrition and Dietetics for the promotion of balanced diet and training manpower in the field. He said that the vitamin C and D are most important to fight the disease. Dr Riaz Hussain Dab said that the virus first appeared in Faisalabad in 2007. He said that in 2011, total mortalities due to dengue in the district were five out of 2,150 patients. Most of the patients affected in Lahore and then travelled to Faisalabad. He stressed the need for finding out nutrients which could produce protection against dengue.

He also called for joint efforts of the UAF, PMC and Entomology Department.

Dr Faqir Muhammad Anjum said that it was appeared in Karachi in 1994 and one killed out of 145 patients. He said that plants extracts of papaya, citrus, apple and guava help tremendous to overcome the disease. He said that it was matter of concern that according to a survey in Karachi as many as 35 percent of the people did not have proper information about dengue, its precautions and treatment. He said that such type of event will open up an avenue to aware the masses about the epidemic. He said that the virus had killed 50 people in the year 1931, 18 in 2007, 40 in 2010 and 500 in 2011. Dr Sarfraz Ahmad also spoke.