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Karachi witnessing mysterious dengue-like viral fever, say experts


A representative image.
A representative image.
  • Mysterious virus spreading in Karachi causing dengue-like symptoms, say experts.
  • Because of high prevalence of dengue fever and mysterious virus, hospitals and blood banks across Karachi facing acute shortage of mega units and random units of platelets, say clinicians.
  • Health experts say it could be another virus from family of ‘Arboviruses’, causing diseases like dengue fever.

KARACHI: There’s a mysterious viral fever going around in Karachi which resembles dengue fever, but isn’t dengue as tests are combing back negative, according to clinicians and pathologists.

Like dengue, this viral fever reduces platelets and white blood cells in the patients, The News reported Friday.

“For a couple of weeks, we are seeing cases of a viral fever, in which platelets and white blood cells are dropping while other clinical symptoms are also similar to the dengue fever. But when NS1 antigen of these patients is performed, their tests come out to be negative,” Dow University of Health Sciences head of molecular pathology Prof Saeed Khan was quoted as saying.

Other experts, including physicians and hemato-pathologists from different hospitals of the city, too, confirmed that a dengue-like virus pathogen is circulating in Karachi, causing a disease which is acting similar to dengue fever and requires the same treatment protocols but is not dengue fever.

Because of the high prevalence of dengue fever and the mysterious virus, hospitals and blood banks across Karachi are facing an acute shortage of mega units and random units of platelets, clinicians said, advising people to take precautionary measures to prevent themselves from vector-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria.

What else do we know about this virus?

Prof Khan believes this virus could be another virus from the family of ‘Arboviruses’, causing diseases like dengue fever.

“We have even performed the PCR test to see if it is dengue virus but it is not the dengue virus. It is not Zika virus because Zika virus behaves differently. There is also little chances of this virus being any unknown variant of the dengue virus,” the expert said, adding that his university had started a study on the new virus.

Molecular scientist Dr Muhammad Zohaib, who is associated with the Children’s Hospital in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, also confirmed that cases of viral fever, which was not dengue but had dengue-like symptoms, had been witnessed by them as well as several other pathologists in the city.

“Owing to this mysterious viral disease in addition to the growing number of dengue fever cases, there is an extreme shortage of mega units of platelets as well as random units in the city. People are moving from pillar to post for mega units and random platelet units for their loved ones,” he said.

Dr Zeeshan Hussain, a senior hemato-pathologist associated with a public sector health facility, said that fortunately, the mysterious viral fever resembling dengue had so far not resulted in any death. He added that they were treating patients infected with this virus as if they had contracted dengue.

‘Most patients responding to conventional dengue treatment’

So far, this virus has not caused haemorrhagic fever by reducing platelets of a patient where bleeding starts. Most of the patients infected with this unknown virus are responding to conventional treatment, shared Dr Hussain.

When Dr Faisal Mehmood, infectious disease expert at the Aga Khan University Hospital, was asked about the mysterious virus, he replied there could be another virus circulating in Karachi’s environment behaving like dengue virus. However, he added that he had not observed any such case in his practice.

Hematologist and physician Dr Saqib Ansari, however, said that the phenomenon of people having dengue symptoms testing negative for dengue was not new in Karachi. He maintained that such cases were being witnessed since 2008. He called for more research before reaching any conclusion.

“I have seen cases where patients were dropping platelets while their SGPT was also on the rise and they had classic symptoms of dengue fever but their dengue test came out negative. There is a possibility that false negative results are being reported so there is a need for more research in this regard,” Dr Ansari said.

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