THE incidence of diarrhoea has, as New Age reported on Wednesday, registered an unusual surge in and around the capital as the summer started setting in. The situation has been so pressing that International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh and other hospitals are grappling with the rush of patients with complaints of diarrhoea. While the ICDDR,B treated 11,751 diarrhoea patients in the first half of April, a single-day record admission of 918 patients to the hospital took place on April 15, the highest in 12 years. The hospital is reported be receiving one patient about every two minutes, forcing the authorities to lay out beds in the hospital corridors and even in the study area. The record admission of patients with complaints of diarrhoea in a single day in 2018 took place on April 28, when 808 patients received treatment and the number had been below 800 on any other day throughout that summer. In the previous year, a record number of 613 patients were admitted to the hospital on April 18, 2017. Physicians say that most of the patients are from Jatrabari, Lalbagh, Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Ramna, Uttara, Tejgaon, Keraniganj, Tongi and Gazipur and most of the patients are children aged below 10 years.
While physicians at the ICDDR,B think that the number of diarrhoea patients could swell further in the coming days, they expressed their surprise at the sudden surge in the incidence of diarrhoea at the very beginning of the summer. They say that rising temperature helps a rapid growth of water-borne bacteria, virus or parasites that can cause diarrhoea and, therefore, warn against the consumption of unsafe water and stale and uncovered food. Yet they find the surge quite unprecedented and seek to say that the problem could lie with the supply water. The water supply agency, Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, has not always been best known for the supply of safe drinking water. In 2017 when a similar surge in the incidence of diarrhoea was reported, the water supply agency sought to brush aside any allegation of the supply water being polluted although the agency did not rule out the possibility of leaks in the supply line that may have contaminated the water. There have often been allegations, at intervals though, that city residents cannot use the supply water, neither for drinking nor for bathing and cooking. In a situation like this, the government agencies concerned should look into if the supply water gets contaminated while travelling through the pipeline.
The government, under the circumstances, must alert hospitals to the increased incidence of diarrhoea and arm up the healthcare system with adequate human resources and medicines to head off any public health disaster. The government must also run campaigns to make people aware of the standard healthcare protocol in this situation. The government must look into if the supply water gets contaminated while travelling through the pipeline and act accordingly.
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