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Dhaka Tribune

Are we helpless against dengue?

There is an urgent need to improve prevention and control strategies in Bangladesh

Update : 01 Nov 2022, 04:07 PM

Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness, occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Every year, millions of cases of dengue fever are reported worldwide, with it being the most common in Southeast Asia, the western Pacific islands, Latin America, and Africa. Mild dengue generates high fever and flu-like symptoms. In contrast, dengue hemorrhagic fever can induce critical bleeding, sudden drop in blood pressure (shock), and death.


The risk of dengue transmission in Bangladesh is year-round, but it is highest during the monsoon season (April-September). Dengue fever was recorded in Bangladesh with 1,405 cases in 2020, 101,354 cases and 179 deaths in 2019, and 10,148 cases in 2018. 


Furthermore, dengue fever afflicted 28,429 individuals nationwide in 2021, and 105 persons passed away from dengue the same year. According to a study, 24% of Bangladesh's population has experienced dengue infection -- this varied from 3% in northern country communities to around 90% in major urban centres.


In Bangladesh, according to the director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), DEN-3, a form of the dengue virus that can raise mortality risk, is infecting a significant number of dengue patients this year, which was not the case in past years.


This year, dengue is growing at an alarming rate in the country. The fact remains that from children to the elderly, all are being infected with severe dengue fever. The number of dengue fever cases and deaths in the country is now out of control, despite the fact that the country managed to contain Covid-19. This year, as many as 141 people have died so far from dengue, with 86 deaths in October alone. 


Given that dengue patients require more specialized treatment than other patients, nonetheless, it is disheartening that hospitals do not have adequate space for them.  


A doctor said, “more and more patients are coming nowadays. But, there is not a single available bed here that is not occupied. On the floor, we do not accept new patients. As a consequence of this, a significant number of patients have to be rejected without getting any treatment.”


Do the concerned authorities have any plan to deal with it? We, the mass people, suffer from this deadly disease every year. The negligence of city authority is one of its core reasons; if the city corporations had been more vigilant in controlling mosquito populations, these incidents would not have taken place. 


Yet, they are not regularly doing their tasks. As always, the city corporation authorities have denied this and said, “we have taken all the necessary steps to get rid of the dengue; moreover, we are campaigning to make people aware of it.”


Bangladesh has also been implementing e-governance systems since the 2000s. There is a little ray of hope that in order to track and prevent dengue outbreaks, the government has initiated a software system, Dengue Prevention Management Monitoring System. 


To control mosquitoes through environmental management and halt the spread of dengue throughout the nation, the Public Works Department has implemented different measures. 


One of these measures is software that allows any conscientious citizen to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds around any government office and residential structures under the department's jurisdiction. 


By posting images of certain locations, citizens may alert the responsible Public Works Department employee immediately and simultaneously send the necessary precautions to stop the dengue virus from spreading in the form of a complaint together with his observations. 


Needless to say, like most other initiatives of the government, this effort is also unfortunately unknown to the people.


Epidemiologists and other researchers in the field have already published a significant number of research articles that reveal causes and consequences along with policy suggestions to prevent the virus. Moreover, mitigation strategies can reduce public health and other economic damage related to dengue fever. 


For instance, a study conducted in 2014 reveals that weather variables, particularly temperature and humidity, are positively associated with dengue transmission in Dhaka city. 


The absence of active interventions, unplanned urbanization, environmental deterioration, increasing population mobility, and economic factors will heighten dengue risk.


There is an urgent need to improve prevention and control strategies in Bangladesh. Some researchers suggest promoting educational campaigns and intervention programs focusing on climate change adaptation and mitigation and effective dengue fever prevention strategies among various communities in Bangladesh. 


For this, communities must be engaged in community-based measures to reduce mosquito breeding sites. Tools for early detection of dengue infection need to be provided to all healthcare facilities, including diagnostic laboratory capability. Finally, clinicians in Bangladesh need to be trained in managing severe dengue to reduce fatality rates. 


Md Obaidullah is Research Assistant, Centre for Advanced Social Research, Dhaka. Zobayer Ahmed is a PhD Student, Selcuk University and Faculty, Department of Economics & Banking, IIUC.

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