Dengue menace on the prowl
Surpassing the total number of cases last year, at least 1,430 dengue patients were hospitalised just this month, indicating an alarming rise in the Aedes-borne disease.
At least four children died of dengue over the last two days in two hospitals in the capital.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) control room, 123 patients were hospitalised across the country in the last 24 hours till 8:00am yesterday. With this, the total number of this year's cases stands at 1,802.
In 2020, 1,405 dengue patients were hospitalised across the country, from which 7 had died, according to DGHS data.
The DGHS, however, did not independently confirm any deaths this year and is investigating only three death cases so far.
Speaking to The Daily Star yesterday, Kinkor Ghosh, epidemiologist of Dhaka Shishu Hospital, said three children, all under five, died of dengue over the past two days in their hospital.
The dead are Rouza, 14 months old, a resident of the capital's Gandaria, Tuba, two and half years old, from Savar, and Momim, four and half years old, a resident of Basabo, he said.
In another case, Zion, 10, son of Ziaur Rahman, deputy controller of import and export of the commerce ministry, also died of dengue in a city hospital on July 25, said Amit Kumar Chakrabarti, general secretary of 29th BCS All Cadre Forum.
To keep children safe from mosquito bites, Kinkor suggested keeping then under mosquito nets and ensuring they are covered properly.
Meanwhile, the government has decided to to dedicate six hospitals for dengue patients.
Speaking to The Daily Star on Sunday, Health Minister Zahid Maleque, said, "We have planned to dedicated six hospitals for dengue patients and we have also started the allocation of manpower in this regard."
Dr Afsana Alamgir Khan, deputy programme manager (malaria and Aedes transmitted diseases), said they have received a proposal from the health ministry in this regard and they are working on finalising it soon.
"Sir Salim Ullah Medical College, Mitford Hospital, and Lalkuthi Hospital in Mirpur, Railway General Hospital in Kamalapur, and Shaheed Ahsan Ullah Master General Hospital in Tongi are some, along with others, that can be proposed as primary sites for dengue treatment."
On the other hand, experts have asked all city corporations to strengthen their anti-mosquito drives, especially to kill adult Aedes mosquitoes.
Prof Kabirul Bashar, entomologist at Jahangirnagar University, said, "Like in 2019, dengue will spread in all districts [this year as well] as a huge number of people have recently gone to their homes outside the capital to celebrate Eid."
According to DGHS statistics, of the 1,802 dengue cases this year, only 50 were outside Dhaka.
"Every deputy commissioner will have to take measures to control Aedes mosquitoes, while civil surgeons will have to ensure conducting dengue tests on any patient admitted to hospital with a fever and will have to take necessary measures in this regard," he said.
Manzur Chowdhury, entomologist and former president of the Zoological Society of Bangladesh, said the government will have to take initiatives to make insecticides and its spraying tools readily available, so that people can carry out anti-mosquito drives in their areas on a regular basis.
"Monitoring this virus is important, but there is no such initiative in our country," he said, adding that in developed countries like the USA, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, they first identify the dengue virus and its locations, and then they destroy the adult Aedes mosquitoes in those particular areas through extensive drives.
"We are at a stage where we have to use adulticides [a type of insecticide used to kill adult mosquitoes] on a massive scale to control the spread of dengue. We also have to carry out special drives to identify the dengue patients' addresses."
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the risk of dengue has multiplied as hospital beds and ICUs are already occupied by coronavirus patients, Manzur said.
"We have a good recovery rate, compared to other countries, for dengue. The fatality rate is 0.2 percent, which is one of the lowest in the world, but it will increase if we fail to provide treatment in hospitals."
LGRD Minister Md Tazul Islam told The Daily Star that the ministry has already instructed all city corporations, including the two in Dhaka, to strengthen their anti-mosquito drives.
The ministry, he said, also held an emergency meeting with the mayors of Dhaka and Gazipur on Sunday and asked them to form a dengue cell.
The mayors were also asked to identify the addresses of the dengue patients in order to conduct special anti-mosquito drives at those houses, in their adjoining areas, and in hospitals.