After dengue fever and Covid-19, is Pakistan ready for West Nile virus?

KARACHI: Unexplained bird deaths including crows, kites and pigeons in Karachi, Islamabad and other cities indicate the presence of West Nile virus (WNV), which is spread by a species of mosquitoes present in Pakistan and causes West Nile fever in humans, infectious disease specialists feared Thursday.

They said that although no test is currently available in most clinical laboratories in Pakistan to detect West Nile virus, clinical symptoms in some of the patients also confirm that people are infected with the transmission disease. vector, which can be fatal for the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), West Nile virus (WNV) can cause neurological disease and death in humans. It is commonly found in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America and Western Asia. West Nile virus can cause fatal neurological disease in humans. however, approximately 80% of those infected will show no symptoms.

“The death of birds, especially crows, across the country may be due to West Nile virus, given the reason. Have seen (such cases), every year. Wait for human cases as well; but may not be detected as most doctors are unable to recognize this disease,” said Dr. Faisal Mehmood, infectious disease expert at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) Karachi in an interview with The News . Commenting on the unexplained death of crows in different cities in Pakistan, Dr Faisal said that when so many crows and other birds start dying, it is most likely due to West Nile virus infection. , which is caused by a species of mosquitoes known as Culex, which are very common in Pakistan and when they bite humans, they infect people with West Nile virus which causes West Nile fever.

He informed that a study conducted by Dr. Erum Khan of AKU found 105 people positive for WNV IgM antibodies, and 71 of these patients had WNV-specific neutralizing antibodies in 2016 and added that in practice clinic also, they observed cases of West Nile. Viral infection with its classic symptoms.

“Most people infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms, but in some people, symptoms of severe illness may include high fever, headache, stiff neck, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, loss of vision, numbness and paralysis,” he said, adding that serious illness can occur in people of any age; however, People over the age of 60 are at greater risk of serious illness if infected.When asked, he said the study by AKU researcher Dr. Erum Khan found the suspected cases of West Nile virus infection in the fall, during the months of September, October and November, but now suspected cases of West Nile fever emerge in the months of February and March, which is a bit unusual.

Dr. Faisal Mahmood maintained that some neurologists have also reported symptoms of West Nile virus in some patients and have been asked to forward these cases to AKU for confirmation, but added that most of the time, cases of this viral infection can be missed by the general. doctors and even neurologists.

When asked how they can detect West Nile virus in Pakistan, he replied that although most clinical labs do not have the ability to detect WNV, the AKU research lab has the ability to detect this virus as well as other viruses. which have caused arbovirus diseases including dengue fever, malaria, chikungunya and Zika virus disease.

“At this time, there is no need to be afraid of this disease or the virus and people should adopt the same precautionary measures that they take to protect themselves from dengue fever or malaria,” he said. he said and added that mosquitoes have become a serious public problem. health problem in Pakistan. Another infectious disease expert at Indus Hospital in Karachi, Dr. Naseem Salahuddin, said that they are actively discussing it (presence of West Nile virus in Pakistan) among infectious disease clinicians and microbiologists, but that they had not yet come to a conclusion.

“There are no definitive tests available. Dr. Erum Khan from AKUH who has done tests in the past and other AKUH experts know more about this,” added Dr. Salahuddin Responding to questions about the presence of suspected cases of West Nile virus in Pakistan, Director General of Health in Pakistan Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar said they had received “official” reports of this viral disease in Pakistan. Pakistan, but so far no “registration” and a credible report of this disease has not yet been received.

Dr Safdar, who himself is an expert in emerging infectious diseases, said he asked the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad to look into this issue and start surveillance of suspected cases and Obtain samples to confirm if WNV is circulating in the community. or not.

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