KARACHI, April 2014: 50% of the world population is at risk of vector borne diseases. Vector-borne diseases accounts for more than 17% of all infectious diseases causing more than 1 million deaths annually. 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. These views were expressed by experts at an Awareness Seminar on World Health Day 2014 organized by Dow University of Health Sciences at its Ojha Campus.
The theme of World Health Day 2014 was; ‘Preventing and controlling vector borne diseases’. The Seminar aimed to highlight public health issues which are of public importance and to create awareness among the educated youth of the society to share preventive messages for their community.
The Chief Guest on the occasion – Prof. Illahi Bux Soomro, Ex Principle of Dow Medical College, addressed the gathering and stressed on adopting a preventive strategy to control vector borne diseases. He talked about the need for creating awareness about the diseases and begin treatment at the earliest stage. He further said that; This year, the World Health Day campaign advocates for health authorities in countries, where vector-borne diseases are a public health problem or emerging threat, to take measures for improving surveillance and protection.
Prof. M. Umar Farooq – Pro Vice Chancellor of DUHS informed in his remarks that; It’s the government’s duty to provide a condusive environment. He also pledged to make individual and collective efforts in the society for creating awareness among general public, regarding vector borne disease and other ailments.
Dr. Kashif Shafique – Assistant Professor & Vice Dean, School of Public Health, Dow University of Health Sciences, speaking on “Introduction and Burden of Vector Born Diseases”, stated that; Malaria causes more than 600 000 deaths every year globally. Most of the victims are children under 5 years of age. WHO estimates that there may be more than 100 million dengue infections worldwide every year. About 2.5% of those affected die.
He also revealed that since 2010, 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 and 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. He stressed on creating a joint force to inform the community at large, about Vector borne disease and to provide the best evidence for controlling vectors and protecting people against infection.
He further said that; Considering the importance of public health, the university is playing its due role for creating public awareness and ensuring preventive measures. Furthermore, he highlighted the achievements of Dow University since its inception.
Dr. Akhtar Ali Baloch – Professor of Medicine, Dow International Medical College said that; Dengue is a dangerous illness, it can cause much suffering, and in some cases death. Till November 2011, Dengue has killed over 300 people during the last several months and over 14,000 have been infected by this mosquito born disease. Majority of the people infected are from the Lahore region in Punjab.
Prof. Shaheen Sharafat from Department of Pathology, DIMC, while speaking on Malaria Challenges in Diagnosis said; Education of health workers and communities about malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment, is a vital component of effective case management, especially as diagnostic policies change. Preventing resistance, emerging due to insecticides used in vector control, remains an ongoing challenge in an era of changing malaria epidemiology.
Dr. Rafiq Khanani, Director, IPER, DUHS and Prof. Tahir Masood of Karachi University also spoke on the occasion.