Dengue still high in Bangladesh, city bodies busy with polls

Manzur H Maswood | Updated at 12:52am on January 26, 2020

The hospitalisation of dengue patients has continued this January as people in unusual number are still getting infected with the aedes mosquito-borne viral fever.

In the 25 days of January till Saturday, at least 177 dengue patients were hospitalised, including 132 in the capital and 45 in the districts.

While the last year saw an unprecedented dengue outbreak, with 1,01,354 patients getting hospitalised and over 266 dying of the disease, the month of January of that year had witnessed only 38 dengue cases.

Since 2008, the year when the Health Services started keeping records on month-wise dengue patients, this January, still six days to go, has witnessed the highest number of dengue patients.

There were 26 dengue patients seen in January of 2018, 92 in January of 2017, 13 in January of 2016, 15 in January of 2014 and 6 in January of 2013.

The January of 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015 saw no dengue patients.

‘The high number of dengue cases this January raises a fear about high numbers of dengue patients in the coming months,’ said Jahangirnagar University entomology professor Kabirul Bashar.

He viewed that the city authorities needed to start mosquito control measures, but they seemed to be doing nothing during the run-up to the city elections.

The number of dengue cases usually peaks in October after the monsoon but the surge in dengue patients in 2019 started from May, apparently because of the substantial increases in the rainfall, creating a favourable breeding condition for aedes aegypti mosquitos, the primary vector of the infection.

Although dengue infections were initially confined to the capital in 2019, as had been the case since 2000, the menace started spreading outside the capital, for the first time, in the fourth week of July.

Just in a week, it spread to the whole country and its severity in the outlying  districts overtook that in the capital.

Health Services in-charge of Health Emergency Operation Centre and Control Room Ayesha Akther said that the high number of dengue patients this January was a continuation from the last year.

She too acknowledged that the number of dengue patients this January was unusually high compared to the previous years.

But, she added, considering the last year’s outbreak, the number of dengue patients is low.

‘It’s a continuation from the last year’s dengue prevalence,’ Ayesha said.

Kabirul Bashar said that a highly favourable ecological condition was now present in the capital and the risks of transmission of the dengue fever were high.

He cautioned that the dengue prevalence this January might be a continuation from the last year but ‘we cannot rule out the possibilities of high number of dengue patients this year.’

‘Dengue infections will persist round the year from now on if a proper controlling measure is not taken this year,’ Kabirul warned.

‘This year is crucial as to how we act,’ he said.

Ayesha said that the Health Services was prepared to combat dengue this year.

‘Surveys, meeting with authorities concerned and preparations are afoot to control dengue this year,’ she said.

As part of the early measures, the Health Services has planned a survey in January, she said.

Last year, the health agency conducted the first dengue survey in March and found unusual presence of aedes larvae and adult aedes mosquitoes in the capital.

It had warned both the city corporations in Dhaka that dengue might take a toll on life if controlling measures were not taken.

Top leaders, including mayors and ministers, initially downplayed the threat.

But as the situation continued to worsen, the government responded with ordering more beds at government hospitals, limiting patient care charges, cancelling doctors’ leave, importing mosquito-killing medicines and dengue-test kits alongside conducting mosquito-killing drives.

City dwellers have recently complained that they witnessed a sharp rise in the prevalence of mosquitoes in recent weeks with the authorities sitting lackadaisical in controlling the insects.

There seems to be none to address the menace of mosquitoes though mosquito bites have been making their life miserable for weeks at home, workplace and other places, they have complained further.

No visible action against mosquitoes was seen in recent weeks as the campaign for the February 1 city elections has been going on full swing.

The mayoral candidates of the two Dhaka cities are promising to control mosquitoes if they come out successful in the polls.

The last mayor of the Dhaka South city, Sayeed Khokon, failed to obtain nomination from his Awami League party but the Dhaka north city’s last mayor Atiqul Islam is contesting from the party.

During his daily campaigns, Atiqul is regularly promising that he would make the city dengue-free.

The mayoral candidates from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Tabith Awal contesting for Dhaka north and Ishraque Hossain contesting for Dhaka north, have alleged that the government completely failed to control mosquitoes.

They are also promising during their electioneering to eradicate aedes mosquitoes.

No mayoral candidate has announced his election manifesto and plan for controlling mosquitoes yet.