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Experts from Islamabad due tomorrow to investigate Malir ‘chickengunya cases’

KARACHI: The health department on Saturday decided to investigate cases of high-grade fever and acute joint pain being reported at a hospital in Malir after its medical superintendent informed officials that some of the patients were suffering from chickengunya, a viral disease caused by infected mosquitoes.

Dengue prevention and control programme manager Dr Masood Solangi told Dawn that the medical superintendent of Al Mustafa Welfare Society Hospital, situated in Khokhorapar No 2, had informed him that the hospital received some cases of ‘chickengunya’.

“I inquired him over this since the hospital doesn’t have the facility to diagnose chickengunya,” said Dr Solangi, explaining that the symptoms of high-grade fever and acute joint pain might have led the doctors to believe that the patients had contracted ‘chickengunya’.

“However, we will investigate these cases on Monday with the help of experts arriving from Islamabad. The disease shares some clinical signs with dengue, for instance high-grade fever, body aches and rash, and can be misdiagnosed.”

The disease, Dr Solangi said, was rarely fatal and no other health facility in the city had reported a similar complaint to the surveillance centre.

“If cases were found positive, they will be the first cases of chickengunya in the country,” he said.

According to him, the city immediately needs vector control strategies, especially fumigation and waste disposal measures, to prevent the outbreak of diseases like malaria, typhoid and dengue.

“A decade ago, no dengue case was reported in winters but now we see patients with dengue. This shows that the virus has successfully adapted itself to the filthy conditions prevailing in the city. The theory that the dengue vector breeds only in clean water is no longer true since we have found its larvae in dirty water, too.”

The city, he said, hadn’t seen a single fumigation drive this year.

Staff at Al Mustafa hospital said hundreds of patients with complaints of high-grade fever and body aches had reported at the facility over the past one month.

“We don’t know what exactly they have since we can’t afford to test each and every case in the laboratory. Most patients are advised general medicines to alleviate pain and fever,” a doctor said on condition of anonymity.

Some patients were found to have dengue, others typhoid or malaria when their diagnosis was made, he added.

Currently, the facility to diagnose ‘chickengunya’ in the city only existed at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), said sources in the health department.

What is chickengunya

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) website, chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. It causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.

The disease’s name is derived from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning “to become contorted”, and described the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.

“Joint pain is often debilitating and can vary in duration. There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms. The proximity of mosquito-breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for chikungunya.

“The disease occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In recent decades mosquito vectors of chikungunya have spread to Europe and the Americas. In 2007, disease transmission was reported for the first time in a localised outbreak in north-eastern Italy. Outbreaks have since been recorded in France and Croatia.

“Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported, as well as gastrointestinal complaints,” the website says.

According to it, serious complications are not common, but the disease can contribute to the cause of death in older people. Often symptoms in infected individuals are mild and the infection may go unrecognized, or be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue occurs.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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