As many as 2,000 children have been hospitalised since April 1 in Pakistan’s Lahore due to diarrhoea, the Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Department Punjab reported.
At least nine positive cases of Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) have also been reported in Lahore, the CDC department confirmed. It is a condition caused by intake of food or water contaminated with the Vibrio cholerea bacteria.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) described it as a global threat to public health and an indicator of inequality and lack of social development.
The figures were provided by the public sector teaching hospitals in Lahore. It is being said that the cases reported in private sector healthcare facilities and general practitioners could be higher than the data shared by the CDC.
The public health experts fear that the drinking water supply lines may have been contaminated due to the city’s decades-old sewerage system. As per Children’s Hospital in Lahore, a government-run hospital, as many as 500 children with acute diarrhea are attended by them daily.
“We are attending around 500 children with acute diarrhoea daily and the number was higher than that of last year,” Prof Junaid Arshad, professor of pediatric medicine at the Children’s Hospital told the Dawn.
He added that AWD cases were also being reported everyday and most of the patients are from Lahore.
The Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP) president Dr Tariq Mian alleged that the health authorities are hiding facts about the actual number of daily diarrhoea cases.
He estimated that out of a total of 60,000 family physicians in Punjab, 50 per cent are practicing in Lahore and 40 per cent of their total patients have diarrhoea.
Dr Tariq criticised Punjab health authorities for not involving general practitioners while forming a strategy to prevent and control the disease. He added that family physicians can play an important role in controlling the disease.
He said, “The diarrhoea epidemic has hit the children in Lahore and thousands of family physicians in the city are still waiting for the guidelines from the health authorities”.
On the other hand, Punjab CDC Director Dr Shahid Maghsi confirmed the data of 2,000 acute diarrhoea cases were obtained from the public sector hospitals of Lahore alone and added that the CDC will also contact family physicians to assess the actual disease burden.
He said that the department had talked to the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) and the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) and told them that the contaminated water and poor food quality may be behind the increased diarrhoea cases in Lahore.
“Normally the health authorities report diarrhoea cases in the monsoon season, but the emergence of such cases in April-May is a cause of serious concern”, he added.
The department had started investigations into the AWD cases and also involved the Institute of Public Health (IPH) for lab analysis of samples.
An awareness campaign has been launched and people are made aware of the contaminated water and unhygienic food items as these are considered as the main reason for the diarrhoea outbreaks.
“The department has also written to the Lahore commissioner to activate officials to ensure that the drinking water in the city is not contaminated because of broken sewerage,” the CDC director said. He further added that the diarrhoea outbreak can be prevented by providing better sanitation and sewerage systems.