“Dengue is now endemic in Pakistan…” said Dr. Muhammad Uzair Mukhtar from the Laboratory of Vector and Vector-Borne Disease at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing. “It has been for the last ten years.” In an interview with Break Dengue, we explored the history of dengue in Pakistan, and he shared his most recent research and insights on what needs to be done to reduce the impact of this disease in the country.
What is the current status of dengue in Pakistan?
The first documented outbreaks of dengue in Pakistan were in 1994 in Karachi, when used tires imported from Thailand were the suspected source of the infection. But if you go back to the 1960s, there was one unconfirmed case of dengue in Pakistan.
Between 1994 and 2016 there were 71,649 cases with 797 deaths. 2010 was the worse year with almost 500 deaths in Karachi and Lahore. That year we had abnormal rainfall and flooding, compounded by people migrating from the cities to suburban areas.
Overall, the DENV2 dengue serotype is spreading across Pakistan – the same serotype detected in Karachi in 1994. Outbreaks started in the coastal region (including Karachi), then shifted to the lowland plains in 2011 (including Lahore) and to the highlands where there was a severe outbreak with deaths in Swat in 2013. Dengue shifted to cities in northern areas in 2017, where a severe outbreak led to 70 deaths. Only the arid region (the southeastern desert along with southwestern Balochistan) has not yet reported dengue.