No respite from mosquito menace in Dhaka

Dengue cases unusually high this year as 260 already infected 

Rashad Ahamad | Published: 23:59, Mar 12,2020 | Updated: 00:11, Mar 13,2020


Hundreds of mosquitoes breed in a puddle on a Dhaka University road. This photo was taken on Thursday. — Sourav Lasker

Residents in the Bangladesh capital continue to suffer due to mosquitoes as both of its city corporations have apparently remained indifferent to controlling the vector even after the Directorate General of Health Services warned of a fresh outbreak of dengue this year.

Officials of the two city corporations said that relevant agencies in Dhaka were not co-operating with them in containing mosquitoes while city dwellers continued to dump domestic wastes in a haphazard manner.

According to Health Services statistics, at least 260 dengue patients were admitted to hospitals from January this year and 10 of them are still undergoing treatment at city hospitals.

During the 24 hours till 8:00am Thursday, at least five new dengue cases were hospitalised even in this lean season for the fever, according to official statistics.

Jahangirnagar University zoology department’s professor of entomology Kabirul Bashar warned the authorities that the dengue situation would be more severe than in 2019, when the menace broke all previous records.

According to the Health Services, the months of January, February and March earlier saw no or few dengue cases as the disease usually appeared in Bangladesh in the post-monsoon period of September and October but the infection in 2019 started from summer (May).

In January and February this year 241 dengue cases were identified. Even the year 2019 did not see such a high number of dengue cases in these two months.

In the two months of January and February, 13 dengue cases were detected in 2013, 22 cases in 2014, 16 cases in 2016, 150 cases in 2017, 33 cases in 2018 and 56 cases in 2019.

Last year saw 101,354 dengue cases hospitalised and over 276 reported deaths from the disease.

The Health Services in February alerted the two city corporations, mandated to look after the health care in the cities, that dengue was going to emerge as a public health threat  this year too.

But the city corporations, Kabirul Bashar observed, are not acting accordingly to control mosquitos—aedes or culex.

The government agencies concerned are not keeping their promises they made in 2019 to conduct an integrated vector management policy to keep the mosquitos in check, he said.

He noted that instead of the four-tire integrated management, which encompassed vector control, environmental management, biological control, chemical control and public involvement, the city corporations were still depending on only chemical control that had miserably failed to control the insects earlier.

A number of residents in the Dhaka north city’s Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Uttara, Dhanmondi and Kalabagan alleged that because of an extensive spread of mosquitos they could stay neither inside nor outside of their houses even in the day time.

Mosquito prevalence and bites have alarmingly increased amid little visible effort by the city corporation, they said.

Dhaka north city corporation chief health officer Brig Gen Md. Mominur Rahman Mamun said that mosquito control became challenging for the city corporation as the water bodies owned by different government agencies remained dirty and full of waste.

It is impossible for the city corporation to spray insecticides in such ponds and canals which serve as major breeding grounds for mosquitoes, he said.

He said that 270 permanent and 540 temporary mosquito control workers were spraying insecticides in 54 wards under the city corporation regularly.

He observed that their efforts went in vain and city people suffered mosquito bites mostly from culex mosquitos, not aedes.

‘If we cannot control culex mosquitos, the aedes prevalence would also be similar, which would be highly dangerous for residents,’ he said.

During a 10-day Health Services survey in the capital’s 98 wards in the second half of December last, 130 adult aedes mosquitos were caught in 137 traps set across the surveyed area where investigators visited 1,000 households for other data.

The aedes larvae density, measured by the Breteau Index, was also found high in the surveyed areas.

The wards 1, 12, 16, 28 and 31 of the Dhaka north city and the wards 5, 6, 11, 17, 42, 70 and 37 of the south city had high densities of aedes larvae, according to the survey.

Water, collected in plastic drums, plastic buckets, abandoned tyres and places of under-construction buildings, was found to be frequented mostly by aedes mosquitos.

During visits by New Age, mosquitos were seen in drains and stagnant water on city roads.

Huge quantities of mosquito larvae have recently been seen on Bir Uttam Samsul Alam Sarak (road) where water stagnates following a moderate rain.

Last year, the city authority had fined house owners after identifying breeding spots inside their boundaries while similar breeding spots were still found inside government establishments.

A judicial probe report submitted to the High Court on Monday said that the two city corporations were partially responsible for the outbreak of the dengue epidemics.

The report recommended joint actions by the two city corporations, with the Rajuk, Dwasa, Bangladesh Police, Dhaka Cantonment authorities, civil aviation authorities, BRTA, BRTC, Bangladesh Railway, BWDB, Health Services, metro rail project authorities, Department of Environment, Department of Meteorology and the city dwellers to control mosquito.

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