Dengue patients have been found in 50 districts this year but the government has no effective initiative to prevent the mosquito-borne disease across the country. The number of actual dengue patient is much higher than the number reported by the health department.
Dengue has been a significant public health concern in Bangladesh for more than two decades. Since 2000, many people are being infected with the disease every year. People are dying of it too.
In 2020, the first year of novel coronavirus outbreak, the dengue infection rate was a bit low. But last year, 28,429 dengue-infected people were admitted to hospitals while, 105 of them died.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019, more than 100,000 people underwent treatment at hospitals after being infected with dengue fever. Many people are getting admitted in hospitals in this year as well.
Public health expert and former director of government’s disease control wing Be-Nazir Ahmed told 99 Creation, “The dengue outbreak is increasing or decreasing uncontrollably. This proves that neither the health department nor any other departments has any effective nationwide initiative in controlling dengue.”
“None of the recommendations or advices given in this regard by local and foreign experts in the past has been implemented,” he added.
Experts’ recommendation neglected
In 2017 when there was an upsurge in the number of dengue cases in Dhaka city, World Health Organization sent their epidemiologist K Krishnamurthy as an advisor to the health ministry.
Talking to government officials, and scientists and researchers, K Krishnamurthy prepared a 22-page plan titled ‘Mid-Term Plan for Controlling and Preventing Aedes-Borne Dengue and Chikungunya in Bangladesh’.
The plan called for the formation of a ‘rapid response team’ comprising epidemiologists, entomologists, microbiologists, information-education-communication experts and media personnel to evaluate the prevention and control programmes for dengue and chikungunya.
Twelve ministries were asked to join hands with the health ministry. Nothing of that plan has been implemented. The plan was supposed to be implemented by 2019.
That year, record number of people was infected by dengue in Bangladesh. WHO then sent its senior entomologist BN Nagpal to Dhaka to advise the government on mosquito-related issues. BN Nagpal had advised on controlling mosquito and making people aware.
When asked about dengue-control, professor Nazmul Islam, director of the disease control wing told 99 Creation, “In addition to both city corporations of Dhaka, we have conducted a mosquito survey in Chattogram, Khulna, Barishal and at the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar.”
“Apart from that, dengue treatment guidelines have been prepared and distributed among healthcare institutes and physicians,” he added.
He said, it is impossible to prevent dengue if mosquitoes are not killed. However, he said that he isn’t aware of the reports prepared by K Krishnamurthy and BN Nagpal.
Number of infected rises
Accurate statistics of how many people have been infected with dengue this year or how many people get infected per year cannot be found at the government’s health department.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) reveals the number of dengue patients getting admitted in hospital and the number of dengue-induced deaths only. In reality, far more people get infected with dengue fever than the number of patients getting admitted to hospitals.
DGHS information released on Monday stated, from 1 January till now, 11,569 people infected with dengue fever have been admitted to hospitals in different districts of the country. Of them, 45 have died.
The list shows that dengue patients have been hospitalised in 50 districts of the country this year. Of them, the highest number of patients was reported in Dhaka with Cox’s Bazar tailing.
A DGHS source says in the last three-and-a-half months 4,292 dengue patients have been identified at 12 government-private labs including the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) lab in Teknaf upazila of Cox’s Bazar.
According to government records, the number of dengue patients identified in Teknaf upazila alone is over four times higher than the number of patients hospitalised all over Cox’s Bazar district.
While talking to 99 Creation, Cox’s Bazar civil surgeon Mahbubur Rahman said, 13,865 degue patients have been identified in the district this year. Majority of them are residents of Rohingya camps.
To understand the situation in Cox’s Bazar better, several teams of government’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research have visited the district.
IEDCR director professor Tahmina Shirin told 99 Creation, “The spread of dengue is significantly high in Chattogram division, especially in Cox’s Bazar district. The density of Aedes population has been higher there.”
“On the opposite, as there are better testing facilities in the district, more people are getting themselves tested, and more people are getting identified. If there were such facilities in all other districts, then the number of patients would have been even higher,” she added.