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In sickness and in despair

  • Published at 05:34 pm July 20th, 2017
  • Last updated at 05:48 pm July 20th, 2017
In sickness and in despair

Unbearable pain, muscle cramps, joints under the cruciatus curse, my mother cried to sleep and woke up in tears. And no one was really talking about it.

The fever wears off in a few days, but the lasting effects can take up months to let up.

When I replied to relatives’ and friends’ queries about my mother’s health, they too spoke in alarm.

They, too, knew what I was talking about because they all knew someone close or in distance suffering from the same, new kind of evil that seems to have taken over Dhaka city.

There are remedies to relieve the individual of pain, just enough to be able to walk, eat, and sleep.

No amount of paracetamol or cold water helped my mother -- but it was different for me.

An epidemic

The doctor informed me that the virus affects people in varying degrees, some are lucky and some are not. But it is an epidemic, nevertheless.

In the initial stages, months ago, even when the average person realised that there is something to be alarmed about, there were initiatives that the authorities in question should have taken to create awareness; they could have made efforts to tackle the spread of disease or taken steps to prevent it -- but even then, editors thought it was not something important enough to take up space on a newspaper.

When everyone started talking about it and attempting to make-do with life in pain, mayors thought it was wise to disregard something as serious as chikungunya -- in fact, press conferences became something about shifting blame.

“Last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicted that Bangladesh was at risk from an outbreak of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that shares many common symptoms with dengue.”

And yet, here we stand. Unaware of the virus, until it runs in our blood.

No, it is not the time to point fingers at the citizens for an epidemic that has no cure, that solely depends on luck and blessings. Blessing, if the person infected has help and support to fight off the ailment.

Can we rely on the government, city corporations, and authorities to take matters seriously before it is too late?

Past the point of prevention

Death by chikungunya is rare, but not unheard of.

We are long past the point where authorities should have taken preventive measures to fight this virus. We can only hope that from now, everything is done to limit people’s suffering, and hope that the lesson has been learned.

The audacity of people and authorities in power to point fingers, shift blame, and juggle accountability and responsibility between the Health Ministry and the Dhaka City Corporations drains the energy and willpower for us, the infected and the spectator, to empathise with high-ups’ blatant disregard for public health.

Lessons learned?

Now, there have been reports about a possible outbreak of measles in Chittagong: “Over 100 children have been admitted to the hospital.

“Nine children, who recently died in Sitakunda, were suffering from measles, says the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).” We have more reasons to worry and more questions to raise.

Can we rely on the government, city corporations, and authorities to take matters (virus, epidemics, what-have-you) seriously before it is too late?

Are we in this alone? How can we fight mosquito-borne viruses? Are we to suffer unprepared and unaware, in unbearable pain?

If doctors, clinics, and hospitals are not equipped to treat patients, now coming in droves, and if “authorities” in power and in charge don’t have accountability -- let alone answers -- then where are we to go?

“Paracetamol, fluids, and rest” is what the doctor prescribes.

In such helpless situations, when one learns about a one-year old WHO warning against the very thing that is cramping one’s muscles, I wonder if we can rely on the government in matters of public health.

And if we cannot, then how can we, you and I, survive an epidemic, let alone fight it?

Nusmila Lohani is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.