Reports of ‘mystery’ fever in Karachi need investigating: doctors

Cases reported from other cities too
Nov 18, 2021
File Photo
File Photo

A few reports have been surfacing of people in Karachi getting sick with a mysterious fever for the last couple of weeks. The symptoms of this “dengue-like fever” include sudden short-lived high fever, weakness and chills and nausea. When they got tested, their blood samples showed falling levels of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. They are testing negative for Covid-19.

Many of them complained of joint pains, vomiting and dehydration. Some people and some children have been admitted in private and government hospitals with these complaints.

So far it has been reported by Arab News, The Express Tribune and Express, UK.

ER In-charge of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center Dr Saima said that the patients are producing negative dengue reports but are reporting dengue-like symptoms: low white blood cells and platelets. JPMC has been moving these patients to wards they offer to Dengue patients.

“There is an increase in the number of patients with a high-grade fever and low platelet count,” Dr Saima told SAMAA Digital.

Dengue fever is also known as break-bone fever. It is a mosquito-borne infection that can lead to a severe flu-like illness. There are four types of dengue viruses (also known as serotypes), called DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3, and DENV-4. More than 20,000 cases of dengue have been reported in Punjab since the monsoon season ended.

Prof Saeed Khan, head of molecular pathology at DUHS, felt that this may be a coexisting virus and may have not been reported. “This is not a mysterious virus the way media has been reporting it," said Prof Saeed. "It could be a kind of fever which needs to be researched further."

The symptoms, he said, are dengue-like but the test results are negative. “Confirmation will take time,” he said. “We are working on it and it will take time before anything can be said."

He said it could even be one of the four dengue serotypes. "No fatality has been reported so far," he added.

Such cases are being reported from other cities such as Islamabad, Lahore and Hyderabad, according to Dr Rana Asghar Jawed, an epidemiologist and virologist. He also felt that this is an unknown virus and research is underway.  

One working theory is that this supposed “new” virus could be malaria or another virus from the family of the Arboviruses, or mosquito-borne viruses. And so patients are being treated the same as dengue patients. There is no specific medicine to treat dengue. Some people believe in the natural remedy of Papaya leaf extract, which in some studies has increased platelets drastically.

History of Dengue

Researchers first found Dengue in soldiers who became ill in Calcutta, India, New Guinea, and Hawaii. Testing showed that the virus strains were all similar. "Many early workers suspected that dengue viruses were transmitted by mosquitoes, but actual transmission was first documented by H. Graham in 1903," says D. J. Gubler in his book The Arboviruses: Epidemiology and Ecology

Medical journals started recording dengue-like illnesses as far back as 1779 in Cairo and Indonesia. Dengue was thought to infect adults in tropical countries in Asia but it hit foreigners and not locals.

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