Diarrhoea cases surge in Dhaka amid sweltering summer heat

As the scorching summer heat kicks in, Dhaka is facing an alarming uptick in diarrhoea cases which has put a severe strain on the cholera hospital at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh.

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 25 March 2022, 01:32 PM
Updated : 25 March 2022, 01:32 PM

As many as 341 patients with stomach ailments streamed into the hospital in Mohakhali by ambulance and other vehicles between midnight and 10 am Friday. 

The increasing patient load has prompted the hospital authorities to set up temporary beds in tents pitched outside the building. The situation has mostly remained unchanged for the last week.

Doctors attribute the surge in diarrhoea cases to a sudden rise in temperature, unsafe drinking water alongside students' tendency to consume unhealthy food and beverages from outside now that schools have reopened.

Nazrul Islam, a construction worker from the capital's North Kafrul area, was admitted to icddr,b on Thursday.

Upon leaving his home earlier that morning, he bought a cool beverage from a roadside shop and drank it to ward off the heat. By noon, he came down with a stomach ache and began suffering from diarrhoea.

As the condition showed no sign of letting up, he had no choice but to come to the hospital.

"I went to work after drinking a sherbet. Suddenly, I started having stomach cramps and began suffering from loose motion. I came home in the afternoon and took some medicine prescribed by our neighbourhood doctor. But it didn't work,” said Nazrul.

'Julhas', a rickshaw driver from Mohammadpur's Shekhertek area, arrived at the hospital with a friend around 10 am on Friday. He was unable to walk due to severe weakness and had to be carried to a bed on a stretcher.

His friend, Maqbool, said a fly fell on Julhas' plate while he was having a meal at home on Thursday. Julhas flicked it away and continued eating. But later in the evening, he began suffering from diarrhoea.

"It's been a nightmare. Along with loose bowel movements, he has been vomiting frequently. The situation kept getting worse so I brought him to the hospital. ”

Two-year-old Wajed Bhuiyan has come to the hospital all the way from Keraniganj with his mother and grandfather.

“My grandson has been suffering from diarrhoea. At first, we went and saw a paediatrician but the medicine he prescribed didn't work. That's why I was taken to the hospital."

'Nishi', a homemaker in Gandaria, came to the cholera hospital on Friday with her two-year-old daughter Safa. Nishi said Safar's twin brother had been hospitalised for three days for diarrhoea last week. Now, her daughter, too, is suffering from the condition.

"We gave her some medicine at home but it hasn't helped. Many people in our neighbourhood are suffering from diarrhoea. I think it is down to a problem with the water in our area.”

Every summer, an average of 750 to 800 diarrhoea patients visit the hospital daily, according to Shoeb Bin Islam, assistant scientist at icddr,b. However, in the last few days, the number of patients has exceeded 1,200, he said.

Most of the patients are coming from Jatrabari, Sayedabad, Shonir Akhra, Mohammadpur and Uttara and are suffering from cholera. The majority of them are over the age of 18, according to Shoeb.

"We have had many children but most of the patients are adults. They have been suffering from severe dehydration.”

Asked about the reasons for the increase in diarrhoea cases, he said, "Schools and colleges have reopened after a long time. Before that, children hadn't been eating a lot of food from outside. But that is not the case anymore. The sudden spike in temperature along with the consumption of unsafe drinking water is also causing stomach ailments."

Dhaka Children's Hospital is also grappling with an influx of patients at the onset of summer, according to Dr Md Shafi Ahmed, head of the hospital's Department of Nutrition, Liver and Gastroenterology.

He said as many as 1,000 children come to the outpatient department of the hospital a day, 10 percent of whom are diarrhoea patients. This year, children under the age of six months have also been seen suffering from the condition.

“Children at that age only drink breast milk. That is why a child under the age of six months does not usually have diarrhoea. But this time, the situation has been different."

"Children are increasingly having food and snacks from outside as schools have opened. These contain germs and dust. Fast food in particular rots quickly in the heat."

He urged people to avoid having food from outside while highlighting the need to consume safe drinking water.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher