More than 4,000 people in Pakistan's Punjab Province have contracted dengue fever as authorities struggle to prevent the disease from spreading, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.
National Institute of Health (NIH) officials say 15 people have died from the disease, including Punjab Mineral Development Corporation Secretary Attaullah Siddiqui. Twelve of the deaths were in Punjab and three in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
Abdul Razzaq, the Health Agency's associate director in Punjab, told RFE/RL that health officials and all local governments are dealing with the disease -- which is spread by mosquitoes -- in an emergency regime.
He said the government has closed all schools and universities in Punjab Province for 10 days as a precautionary measure.
"We are spraying the affected areas [for mosquitoes] twice daily," Razzaq said. "The government also plans to purchase insecticides from Sri Lanka, and may send staff there to buy it and bring it here."
NIH officials said dengue virus is now spreading to other parts of Pakistan. U.S. consulate officials in Lahore confirmed that some embassy employees have contracted the virus.
Consulate communications officer Leslie Goodman told Radio Mashaal that some employees have been affected but that their condition is improving.
"All I can tell you right now, like a lot of people in Lahore and Punjab, we have employees in the consulate [who are ill]," Goodman said. "I can't speak about their treatment, but I can tell you that they all are feeling better and we, like a lot of companies and organizations, we have employees [infected] with dengue."
The dengue virus causes an infectious tropical disease known as dengue fever, which is characterized by headaches, severe joint pain, and a rash. In some cases, far more life-threatening hemorrhagic fever or shock syndrome can develop.
Punjab is Pakistan's most-populous province, with 56 percent of the country's population of some 173 million living there.
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