A number of news accounts out of Pakistan have reported on a chikungunya outbreak in several areas of Pakistan in recent days.

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

Reports on hundreds, if not thousands of cases have been published in media accounts in Karachi. In the areas of Malir, one report put the case tally at 3000.

Yesterday, the Pakistan Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and the World Health Organization (WHO) released a joint statement concerning the unconfirmed reports of chikungunya.

The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Department of Health of Sindh Province and World Health Organization (WHO) in Pakistan are working closely in the wake of these unconfirmed reports and carrying out epidemiological investigations, the statement notes.

However, while the investigations continue, it can be clarified that no cases of chikungunya virus have yet been confirmed to date and any information circulating with regard to confirmation of any case is incorrect and misleading.

Health officials continue:

It is of paramount importance that the public and health care providers are adequately informed about the risk associated with all illnesses of epidemic potential. In the case of chikungunya, the following information must be conveyed:

1) Although there is serological evidence of the historical presence of the virus in Pakistan, there is at this time no evidence of any nested transmission of chikungunya in the country.

2) As for any disease, imported cases can always appear, but such importation, if detected early, would not cause any significant damage to public health.

3) The chikungunya virus pertains to the same family of viruses (the so-called “arboviruses”) family, as dengue and Zika, but is known among the three for causing the least harm to health.

4) Being transmitted by the same mosquito (Aedes aegypti) as dengue, the measures already in place for controlling dengue are identical to the ones that are needed to control any surge in chikungunya transmission.

5) Epidemiological investigation supported by laboratory confirmation is being undertaken by the health authorities.

It is important to remember that an external evaluation mission of experts mandated by the WHO Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean has concluded in a recently released report, that Pakistan, at both federal and provincial levels, is well prepared to respond to any epidemic event.

In the particular case of chikungunya, the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and WHO Pakistan wish to highlight that diagnostic capacities exist within the National Institute of Health and additional testing supplies will be made available to absorb any further testing demand.

In conclusion, this statement is intended to convey accurate information on the current situation with regard to chikungunya virus in Pakistan.