Number of patients with acute respiratory infection has increased five times over last year while a quarter of the fiscal year is still to go
The shocking increase in respiratory and infectious diseases across the country this year has raised questions on the government’s continuous initiatives to implement the 4th Health Nutrition and Population Sector Program (HNPSP) in this regard.
According to the data provided by Health Emergency Operation Center and Control room under the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), the total number of patients suffering from respiratory and infectious diseases has increased massively in the last five years.
According to DGHS, the number of cases with such diseases increased seven times more than last year, whereas it was 5.5 times more than that of 2017-18 fiscal year, 10.2 times higher than 2016-17, and 5.87 times greater than 2015-16.
DGHS Control room generally keeps records of winter diseases, like asthma, pneumonia, breathing problems, diarrhoea and others including urinary tract infection, and fever, from November to March 15 every year.
DGHS Control room only keeps track of information received from government hospitals across the country. Information from private hospitals are not included in this record.
According to DGHS, some 54,170 people were infected with various winter diseases in March this year while it was 113,880 in February, 161,733 in January, 152,094 in December 2019, and 148,751 in November 2019.
Additionally, the number of patients having Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) has increased drastically compared to the previous year, according to the data provided by DGHS.
The total number of ARI patients has increased five times over last year while a quarter of the fiscal year is still to go.
ARI cases in March this year stands at 11,930 which is 14.54 times higher than last year’s number (820). In 2017-18 the number of patients with ARI was 649 while it was 1010 in 2016-17, and only 141 in 2015-16.
The Director (disease control) of DGHS, Dr Shahnila Ferdousi could not be reached for comments.
When contacted, Assistant Director of Health Emergency Operation Center and Control Room Dr Ayesha Akther said the number of such cases increased not only in March but also during the whole season this year.
The authorities will find out why the number is so high this year, she added.
Reasons need to be identified
The physicians and public health experts termed the rise as unusual, although they could not specify the reason behind this increase.
Dr Uttamn Kumar Barua, director at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital said: “In comparison to previous years, we have observed an unusual rise in acute respiratory infections and other infectious diseases this year.”
Although he could not give the specific numbers immediately, he said the number in this winter season is several times higher than in previous years.
The Pulmonologist said there must be a gap in interventions made by the government that is causing this increase in the number of cases.
He expressed his suspicion that worsening air qualities in recent years and fear among people following the dengue outbreak last year has caused the number of patients to increase in the hospitals.
Will Covid-19 situation worsen? Decentralized testing can be a relief
According to a report – Clinical characteristics of 2019 novel coronavirus infection in China – published by medRxiv on February said the median age for coronavirus infection is 47 years.
The report was written after reviewing data of 1,099 patients from 552 hospitals in 31 provinces or provincial municipalities.
Meanwhile, data provided by the DGHS Control room did not mention any specific age group of the infected cases in Bangladesh.
However, experts said it would be devastating if the patients above 50 years get infected, as more than 70% of the elderly people in the country have already developed NCDs, and co-morbidity in them.
Rizwanul Karim, asst. professor (Epidemiology), also the program manager at DGHS, said symptoms like fever, cough, and acute respiratory infections are common syndromes in many cardiac and respiratory infections.
They might not be dangerous for all but would be a matter of concern for people aged above 50, he added.
According to the epidemiologist, patients having pneumonia, COPD, chest diseases, and cardiac problems will be most vulnerable during this crisis.
Acknowledging the matter, Residential Surgeon of National Institute of Cardiology and Hospital Ashraful Haque Sium strongly advised people who have a history of cardiac and respiratory problems not to go outside, and maintain strict social distancing.
Family members of these patients should not go outside as well, he said.
Meanwhile, Pulmonologist Dr Uttom Kumar Barua said the current situation is suggesting that people should not be worried, but if the virus starts spreading more it will be devastating.
He, however, said the decision of decentralizing the testing facilities will come as blessings, as it would take lesser time to get the results.
“It will help us to take necessary measures within hours and save more valuable time for patients who need immediate care,” he said.
He also said they might conduct CBC test for coronavirus patients besides rt-PCR test to help them get an idea as early as possible whether a patient is infected by the virus or a bacteria.