Government efforts combined with public awareness in the urban areas has helped curb dengue infection rate this year, experts say
Bangladesh witnessed a record number of dengue cases last year, during which at least 164 people died.
This year, surprisingly, the mosquito-borne virus has not made any significant impact in the country.
Only 67 people were recorded to have been infected by dengue in August this year, which is considered to be the peak time for dengue outbreak, compared to 52,636 cases recorded over the same period in 2019.
The curve of infection rate has been almost lying flat this year compared to the previous year.
Bangladesh also has had no deaths from the deadly disease till date, since the beginning of 2020.
Experts and the government said this was the result of Bangladesh learning the hard way in 2019 on how to minimize dengue infection rate.
At the same time, both the authorities and the public have become more aware of dengue prevention this year, which resulted in a drastic drop in the cases.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) data, the death rate from dengue dropped down to zero this year, following an unprecedented rise in deaths recorded in 2019. A total of 164 people died of dengue fever last year.
The city corporations have been more organized this year and successfully executed its dengue prevention plan, Brig Gen Mominur Rahman Mamun, chief health officer of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), told Dhaka Tribune.
He, however, believes that the prevention plan would not have been successful without the involvement of the citizens, particularly the urban population.
“The government has done its part. We did not stop spraying insecticide even during this pandemic. However, we realized it would be very difficult to reduce the larva sources of Aedes mosquito [the mosquito responsible for spreading dengue virus] if we failed to involve the people,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
He also added that despite having a very low infection rate this year, the DNCC sent out free “dengue fever testing kits” to 40 Nagar Matri Sadan clinics. Out of 1,306 tests, only 14 samples were found positive.
Dr Nazrul Islam, virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told Dhaka Tribune that although there is no hard evidence or any research done on why the number of dengue cases had dropped in 2020, it seems that human intervention could be the main reason behind the success.
“The quality of intervention is probably much better this year. Last year, most of the insecticides being used by the city corporations were not effective,” he said.
The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) conducted a research on Aedes mosquitoes in 2019, which found that the mosquitoes had developed a near complete resistance against some of the insecticides being used by the city corporations over the last 10 years.
Dr Islam believes human intervention should be carried out in the right way to prevent diseases like dengue fever.
“I believe the authorities have learned from the mistakes they made last year. They probably imported more effective insecticides this year, and routinely sprayed them across the city,” he said, adding that people have become more aware as they experienced the worst last year.
Most dengue virus cases recorded this year were in January, a month considered as off season for a dengue outbreak.
Only 38 people were infected in January 2019, which however stood at 199 in January 2020.
DNCC Chief Health Officer Mominur Rahman Mamun said the month of January witnessed the highest number of cases as some infected people were still around and helped spread the virus.
Travel restriction due to the Covid-19 pandemic also came as a blessing for dengue prevention this year. Public movements were limited in most urban areas due to lockdown. Unlike last year, not too many people from dengue-affected countries managed to enter Bangladesh due to international travel restrictions.
The DNCC health chief believes restrictions on movement played a small role in curbing dengue infection this year. However, most people in urban areas have not really stayed indoors since May.
“I am not sure if we should give that much credit to restrictions on public movements for the lower number of cases this year. We did not really have a strict lockdown,” he said.
He also believes that if the government works together with the people to curb the dengue infection rate, a situation like in 2019 can be avoided.