Dengue menace lurks around corner

Monwarul Islam | Published: 00:00, Mar 13,2020


Mosquitoes swarm water that collected by the side of a road stretch at Shantinagar in Dhaka in the past week. — New Age/Rashad Ahmad

WE APPEAR to be neglecting the dengue menace, which is lurking around the corder, all the while we have been busy getting to know the news on and rumours about the coronavirus epidemic, with higher prevalence in a few countries and although having already spread to more than 114 countries, that has been frighteningly taking a heavy toll on human lives, public heath and economy for the past four months.

It is certainly worrying that there have been confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus infection in Bangladesh. The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research on March 8 confirmed the presence of coronavirus cases, saying that three people were tested positive. The government, national health managers and the epidemiology institute have assured us that Bangladesh is ready to fight any outbreak of coronavirus even though people have ample reasons to doubt the claim.

It is necessary that the government, the health managers and citizens should remain alert and aware. But it would be unacceptable if the government, especially the mayors of the two city corporations of Dhaka and local administrations across the country, play down or neglect the dengue menace as the next season for the breeding of Aedes aegypti is around the corner.

Realising the gravity and the toll that dengue took on public health in the past season beginning from late April and continuing to January 2020, dengue infected more 1,01,174 people and left about 270 dead although the official death toll is low, the city corporations and other agencies and departments concerned must begin working to head off any repeat of the epidemic.

What appears to be worrying is that the authorities concerned, despite being ordered, told and requested by different organisations, experts and people, do not appear to have taken up any effective action or worked on any action plan. On Monday, a judicial investigation, done by a committee on a High Court order of November 12, 2019, held the Dhaka North and South City Corporations responsible, partially, for the unprecedented dengue outbreak in 2019. The report has rightly summed up what the city dwellers have all along known for certain that the two city corporations could not act effectively to destroy Aedes mosquitoes, the vector of dengue and chikunguniya, and the corporations used ineffective larvicide for mosquito control.

The report has put forth a number of recommendations to the government and the city corporations. It has rightly recommended an integrated initiative and a plan of joint action by all agencies concerned including the two city corporations, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, the Directorate General of Health Services, the environment department and other agencies and organisations to stop the spread of dengue and chikungunya this season.

It is obvious that the two city corporations alone may hardly be able to fight the dengue menace. The city corporations should, however, remember that they have the major responsibility in giving city residents respite from the menace and the corporations need to buckle down to work early to do this.

A recent government survey reveals a frightening picture that points to a hard time ahead. The survey, conducted in December 2019 by the Malaria Elimination and Aedes Transmitted Disease Control Programme in 98 wards in the capital, has revealed that there is an abnormally high density of Aedes mosquitoes in 95 per cent areas in the capital even in the lean season, winter that is. Such a presence of the vector of dengue and chikunguniya suggests that a tough time is lurking ahead once the monsoon begins and creates a favourable breeding ground for the mosquito.

The infection rate in December and January, considered to be the lean period for the Aedes mosquito-borne fever, was unusually high this time, according to the Health Emergency Operation Centre and Control Room. The high number of dengue cases this past winter, coupled with the finding of high density of Aedes mosquitoes, raises a reasonable fear.

Any lack in taking an integrated initiative by the city corporations and other agencies would cost dearly while it would be unwise if local administrations in outlying areas remain unprepared as the dengue menace, for the first time since its reported presence in the country in 2000, spread outside the capital in 2019 and the severity in outlying areas outweighed that in the capital.


Monwarul Islam is an editorial assistant at New Age.

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