Dengue spike rings alarm

Cases rising similar to 2019; experts warn of danger amid pandemic

After a lull last year, dengue infections have been on the rise again with the spike of cases indicating a situation similar to that of 2019 when Bangladesh recorded over one lakh dengue cases and 179 deaths.

In May 2019, the number of dengue patients in the country was only 193, but it went up to 1,884 the next month. Then, in July, cases jumped to 16,253 before the cumulative figure stood at 1,01,354 -- the highest ever number of dengue cases in a calendar year.

This year, the number of dengue patients was 43 in May. But it leapt to 225 in June, according to Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) data.

A total of 565 patients -- 32 of whom are from outside Dhaka -- have so far been infected with the viral disease this year, with 29 new patients hospitalised in 24 hours since Tuesday morning, as per the latest data available from the DGHS control room.

One patient has so far died of the disease, according to family members, with DGHS data on deaths yet to be updated as of filing this report yesterday evening.

Among the total dengue patients, 131 are currently undergoing treatment while 434 have recovered.

Experts fear the rise of viral dengue fever amid the coronavirus pandemic might put the already strained health sector under further pressure if extensive measures to control Aedes mosquitoes are not taken.

They said treating a person infected with both dengue and Covid-19 is even more challenging and this may lead to an increase in fatalities.

"There is a clear indication of rising dengue patients and this might contribute to an explosive situation as the Covid-19 pandemic has also taken a dangerous turn," said Prof Kabirul Bashar, an entomologist of Jahangirnagar University.

He said a study they conducted last month found the presence of more Aedes mosquitoes at every ward of Dhaka city than in the same period last year.

Bashar further said there has been a trend of dengue increasing every alternate year.

Last year, health authorities reported 1,405 cases and nine deaths.

"Due to the trend, there is a huge possibility of a rise of dengue fever this year and the number of cases in June speaks to it. It will continue to go up until August if the authorities concerned do not take necessary steps to control Aedes," he said.

HM Nazmul Ahsan, associate professor at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital, said doctors will struggle to handle patients infected with both dengue and Covid-19.

"A dengue patient faces bleeding while a coronavirus patient faces blood clotting. We use an injection of anti-coagulation for coronavirus patients when it is needed to prevent blood clots. But we cannot do it when the same patient also carries dengue virus and his platelet counts remain under one lakh," Ahsan explained.

Prof Dr Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, director general of DGHS, said a further rise of dengue patients will be very challenging for the number of doctors available.

"Treatment of all other non-communicable diseases has already been hampered due to Covid-19 and it will be a huge challenge for the same number of doctors if the number of dengue patients rises further," Prof Alam told The Daily Star.

He said in 2019 they used separate wards for dengue patients in hospitals but these wards are now used for coronavirus patients. He, however, said they have directed district hospitals to take necessary steps to treat dengue patients.

"We have asked all the district-level hospital authorities to communicate with the dengue cell if they need any support," he said.

Yesterday, Sayeeda Nasrin Bably, an assistant professor of the history department at Jagannath University, died of dengue, said her husband Deputy Attorney General Abdullah Al Mahmud Bashar. She had been undergoing treatment at Square Hospital in Dhaka.

Manzur Chowdhury, entomologist and former president of the Zoological Society of Bangladesh, said the authorities will have to take immediate steps to raise awareness among the people to remove water from all kinds of containers once a week since Aedes breeds in clean water, adding that its population normally grows in the rainy season -- from May to September.

Md Nazmul Islam, director (disease control) of DGHS, said they have conducted a pre-monsoon survey in Dhaka and already shared the results with the two city corporations, who are taking measures accordingly.

He said in addition to the city corporations, everyone will also have to play their due role.

"We will have to clean flower pots, trays, plastic containers, air conditioners, unused commodes and other sources where clean water remains stagnant to prevent Aedes breeding," said Islam.

Contacted, Chief Health Officer of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Brig Gen Md Zobaidur Rahman said apart from their regular activities, they are also spraying adulticide and larvicide at every hospital treating dengue patients.

He also said after collecting data from hospitals, they are spraying adulticide and larvicide at patients' homes and adjoining areas.

Adulticide is a type of insecticide used to kill adult mosquitoes while larvicide is specifically targeted against the larval life stage of the mosquitoes.

He urged people to stay alert and destroy all possible Aedes mosquito breeding sources.

DSCC Health Officer Mustafizur Rahman said they have also taken similar measures to control Aedes and have been running awareness campaigns.

"Apart from this, we are conducting mobile court drives in government buildings, colonies, and under-construction buildings and imposing fines if we find any dengue larvae there," he said.



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