Arooba Mansoor explains why Lahoris are bundling up.

If the Covid-19 pandemic wasn’t enough, Pakistan is facing another potential outbreak in the form of dengue, with Punjab being the most afflicted province so far. According to Dawn, 2,013 cases were reported across Punjab with 1,603 originating in Lahore as of October 3rd. This outbreak is the result of a combination of heavy rainfall over the summer as well as governance failures including delays in mass fumigation and the lack of efficient campaigns against dengue by health authorities. ICUs around the country – in public and private hospitals alike – are rapidly filling up, suggesting that the Dengue virus threatened to turn into an epidemic which would be devastating for our already worn health infrastructure.

Despite the glaring Lahori sun and the stifling humidity, people are digging out their long coats, sweaters, shawls and hoodies to guard their skin against the sneaky mosquito vectors. Men and women alike have almost entirely abandoned shorts and anything less than full-sleeved shirts lest they become victims of this potentially fatal disease. This may not sound very intriguing at first; but when one thinks about how high temperatures in Lahore soar, even by the start of October (36 degrees Celsius to be exact with high levels of humidity), it depicts an alarming situation indeed. Sweater weather has arrived much earlier than anticipated or desired for people across Punjab as the threat of dengue is prevalent even inside their own bedrooms, rather than their gardens alone, in the form of swathes of mosquitos buzzing around.

At this point, many women may be wondering what the big deal is. To be honest, having to cover up even when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable is not new to us. What adds to the frustration, however, is the fact that indoor spaces were already restricted due to fears of the spread of Covid; now, outdoor spaces also seem to have been snatched away by the mosquitos who are irritating enough even when they’re not carrying a life-threatening disease. It almost feels like we have no space left where we would be free from the fear of illness and death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have published guidelines to protect oneself from Dengue. First up, never ever step out without first generally lathering insect-repellent on all exposed parts of your skin: local favorites include good old Mospel and Off. I’d highly recommend keeping these accessible and having a supply in your bags to keep renewing the effect every couple of hours. Unfortunately, wearing long-sleeved shirts and longer bottoms is your best chance of staying healthy and safe. Consider this a good opportunity to design a few new pieces of light shalwar kameez which seems to me an ideal compromise between a heatstroke and dengue. Finally, avoid exposing yourself to vegetated areas like gardens or stagnant water bodies two hours after sunrise and before sunset as this is when the mosquitos are most enthusiastic! Make sure to follow these precautions and stay safe.

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