Pakistan News

State-of-the-art labs to check infectious diseases planned

State-of-the-art labs to check infectious diseases planned

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has decided to establish world standard laboratories to detect and check the spread of infectious diseases such as Ebola virus in the country.

Minister for NHS Saira Afzal Tarar is currently visiting the USA to get quality laboratories and a robust disease surveillance system for Pakistan.

It may be mentioned that at the time of the Ebola outbreak in Africa last year, two suspected patients, who had travelled to some African countries, were admitted to hospitals in Faisalabad and Karachi.

But as there was not a single World Health Organisation (WHO) certified laboratory in Pakistan, their samples were sent to Germany and Egypt for verification.




An official of the health ministry, who was not authorised to speak to the press on record, said communicable diseases were one of the major challenges to the country.

But there is no proper surveillance system to identify the disease and protect the health workers against infections.

“There is a need to invest in the establishment of laboratories, especially in the public sector, and upgrade the existing ones according to the international standards to deal with communicable diseases,” he said.

Communicable diseases spread from one person to another or from an animal to a person. The spread often happens via airborne viruses or bacteria but also through blood or other bodily fluid.

The terms infectious and contagious are also used to describe communicable diseases.

“There is no laboratory of international standard in Pakistan. The outbreak of communicable diseases is rampart in the country and we need to act fast to strengthen our surveillance system to be better prepared to deal with this major public health challenge. The surveillance system in the country needs to be responsive and cater to our needs,” he said.

On the other hand, staff which works in the public sector laboratories is exposed to different blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C, cancer and tuberculosis. So there is a need to improve the whole system, he said.

According to an official statement issued on Monday, Minister for NHS Saira Afzal Tarar is currently visiting the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the US.

She has been trying to seek support for upgrading Pakistan’s public health laboratories and strengthening the surveillance system.

Laboratories are required to be upgraded to allow for high-tech diagnostic facilities.

There is a time lag in sending samples for tests abroad bedsides pressure on the limited resources of the country, she said.

The CDC will also be helping the ministry of NHS in human resource development and polio campaigns.

The CDC has a vast experience in fighting infectious diseases and is also providing support to Pakistan’s health system in the realm of disease control and prevention, the statement added.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2015

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