“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” –Dr Seuss

Dengue reborn

Dengue – a viral disease that can refer to both dengue fever and the more severe dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) – swept away records again this monsoon season as it raged across Pakistan, infecting more and more people. Although it may not be the most devastating of the mosquito-borne diseases, dengue has become a major public health concern for two reasons: the speed with which it is spreading and the escalating seriousness of its complications. In the 19th century, dengue fever was a mild illness found in the tropics. Deaths were rare, and years passed between major epidemics. But since the mid-20th century, the range of the dengue virus has steadily broadened. Moreover, today’s dengue infection is not what it once was. DHF now appears in many dengue epidemics. In addition to the fever, rash, headache, and muscle and joint pain of classic dengue fever (which earned dengue its nickname of “breakbone fever”), DHF sometimes causes hemorrhaging that can lead to shock and even death. Epidemic DHF is now a leading cause of hospitalisation and death among many in Pakistan, especially in the Punjab province. But what’s causing this disease to spread like fire? One major factor is the effect of climate change on the dissemination of dengue. Like many vector-borne diseases, dengue fever shows a clear weather-related pattern: rainfall and temperatures affect both the spread of mosquito vectors and the likelihood that they will transmit virus from one human to another. Several studies have predicted that global climate change could increase the likelihood of dengue epidemics. So, how can we curb dengue’s expansion? Researchers are coming at dengue from a variety of angles to try to curb the virus’s spread. Though up till now, there are no available vaccines or antivirals for dengue infection, leaving mosquito control as the only current method for prevention and control.

Maliha Javed,

The case of extreme inflation

The rate of inflation has a big impact on your financial situation, affecting mortgage payments, savings and the cost of your weekly shopping. How the price of goods and services we regularly spend money on changes over time is used by governments and businesses to take the temperature of a nation's economy. It’s generally accepted that low, predictable growth is best for everyone. But if inflation is too high or if it moves around a lot, it’s difficult for businesses to set the right prices and for consumers to plan their spending. If prices go up drastically in a short time you can’t buy as much with the same amount and it can be hard to work out how much your money is worth. And a country that is hobbled by political and economic instability – Pakistan – is facing cripplingly high inflation rates. Prices are increasing amid a scarcity of essentials and the purchasing power of people falling low every day, keeping in mind the pay cuts and layoffs the Pakistanis have faced amid Covid-19. Whatever the causes of inflation are and whoever is supposed to be blamed, what matters the most to a layman is the decrease in prices. There are many methods that our government can use to control inflation; some work well, while others may have damaging effects. That being said, unless the government puts its fiscal house in order and unless competition laws and best market practices are enforced with strong political will, managing inflation would remain problematic. Excessive government borrowing from banks to fill in budgetary gaps is one good example of how fiscal indiscipline fuels inflation. It encourages banks to continue to ignore credit requirements of the private sector – and the private sector’s reliance on informal, more expensive, borrowings result in pricier products. Eventually leading to higher inflation.

Zahra Ahmed,