Experts raise alarm as dengue strikes in spring - long before monsoon

Entomologist Kabirul Bashar warns that the dengue situation may worsen outside Dhaka this year due to persistent mosquito density, while the city may fare better

Obaidur Masumbdnews24.com
Published : 23 March 2024, 08:49 PM
Updated : 23 March 2024, 08:49 PM

Once believed limited to the rainy season which creates a perfect breeding condition for mosquitoes, dengue is now a year-round menace. A worrying spike in dengue cases after spring's arrival indicates a challenging year ahead.

Experts warn that this year's dengue outbreak could potentially be the worst on record.

Health Minister Samanta Lal Sen has directed hospitals to brace for more cases and urged public participation in mosquito control efforts, stressing the importance of raising awareness and community action.

Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, a public health expert, told bdnews24.com that he expects more dengue cases this year.

He criticised the lack of changes in dengue prevention methods, warning of a higher risk compared to last year.

"Prevention, mosquito eradication, and medical care are still being handled traditionally, with no improvements or accountability. Agencies are blaming each other. We may not be able to prevent a dengue outbreak this time without coordinated government action."

Analysing data from the Directorate General of Health Services from 2019 to the present year reveals a concerning trend in dengue cases.

The number of patients and deaths in the first three months of this year is the highest in the past six years, with March alone seeing more cases than ever before.

- In 2020, there were fewer cases and deaths, with 1,405 hospitalisations and 7 deaths, including 271 hospitalisations and no deaths reported until March.

- In 2021, there were 28,429 hospitalisations and 105 deaths, with 54 hospitalisations and no deaths until March.

- In 2022, there were 62,382 hospitalisations and 281 deaths, with 166 hospitalisations and no deaths reported until March.

- In 2023, when all records were shattered, there were 321,179 hospitalisations and 1,705 deaths from dengue, with 843 hospitalisations and 9 deaths reported until March.

- By Mar 23 this year, 1,620 dengue patients were hospitalised, resulting in 22 deaths, the highest for the first three months of the year ever.

- After the first case of dengue was reported in Bangladesh in the 1960s, the highest number of hospitalisations occurred in 2019, with 101,354 dengue patients and 164 fatalities. In the first three months of that year, 73 cases were reported with no deaths.

DENGUE CHALLENGES OUTSIDE DHAKA

As many as 211,171 of the 321,179 dengue patients hospitalised in 2023 were outside Dhaka.

This year, the trend persists, with more patients admitted outside Dhaka, particularly in Chattogram and Barisal divisions.

Of the 1,620 patients admitted so far, 568 were in Dhaka and 1,052 outside the capital.

Barishal division alone recorded 195 patients this year, with 95 in Barguna district.

Dr Mohammad Fazlul Haque, the district’s civil surgeon, noted that Barguna municipality, Betagi, and Amtali municipal areas have more patients.

He emphasised the importance of mosquito control measures, highlighting the need to reduce mosquito breeding to prevent further dengue cases.

Mayor Kamrul Ahsan Moharaj of Barguna Municipality told bdnews.com that they are facing challenges in mosquito control because of a fund crunch.

He said limited resources hinder their ability to implement effective measures across the town.

"We're also working on raising awareness among the people, who lack knowledge about the disease," he said.

In 2023, more than 44,000 dengue patients were hospitalised in Chattogram Division, with 124 deaths. Cox's Bazar district alone saw 4,659 cases.

By March 22 of that year, 45 patients had been admitted to hospitals. This year, until March 22, 96 patients have been admitted, and one has died. Patients from the Rohingya camps are not included in the data.

According to Fahim Faisal, a medical officer at the Civil Surgeon’s Office in Cox's Bazar, over 15,000 dengue patients, including those from Rohingya camps, have been identified in the past two years.

He emphasised the need for increased mosquito control efforts due to the consistent high number of cases in the area.

Cox's Bazar Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Shahin Imran stressed the importance of enhancing cleanliness at the union level and conducting drives to spray mosquito repellant in the municipality area.

He emphasised the need to raise awareness about dengue prevention.

Imran highlighted cleanliness and preventing water stagnation to curb dengue cases, especially in densely populated areas like refugee camps.

Additionally, he mentioned collaborative efforts with other organisations to control mosquitoes.

HIGHLIGHT

Experts suggest:

- Effective mosquito control measures

- Coordination among government agencies

- Awareness about preventing dengue

- Early medical care

EXPERT INSIGHTS ON DENGUE

Kabirul Bashar, a professor of the zoology department at Jahangirnagar University, conducted a survey in Chattogram, Barisal, Barguna, Pirojpur, and Chandpur to assess the presence of Aedes mosquitoes.

He observed that the density of Aedes mosquitoes in these areas is significantly higher than before.

The entomologist expressed concerns that dengue may spread more outside Dhaka than within the city this year due to the persistent mosquito density and environmental conditions in those regions. He anticipates a worsening dengue situation overall.

However, he believes the situation in the capital might not be as severe as before. Dengue has been prevalent in the city for some time, resulting in many people being previously infected with one or more serotypes of the virus. Moreover, mosquito control efforts are relatively more active in Dhaka.

Bashar emphasised the importance of implementing necessary mosquito control measures at the city corporation, municipality, and union levels.

Md Abu Naser, the spokesperson for the Dhaka South City Corporation, said they conduct mosquito control operations every year.

"If a ward reports more than 10 dengue cases in a week, we classify it as a red zone and intensify our control efforts there."

He also said that they will regularly hold mobile courts to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.

Local Government Minister Md Tajul Islam stated that there has been an increase in both culex and Aedes mosquito populations this year. At an event in Dhaka, he emphasised controlling Aedes mosquitoes, which are responsible for dengue transmission and fatalities.

Tajul highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts between city corporations, municipalities, and individuals in combating mosquito breeding.

He stressed the need for public awareness and maintaining cleanliness in households and surroundings.

Tajul claimed the government has been taking action since the beginning of the year to prevent dengue.

He conducted meetings in January and instructed district administration chiefs to prioritise mosquito control activities and implement Integrated Vector Management or IVM strategies, a methodical approach that ensures effective, affordable, and sustainable vector control.

[Writing in English by Arshi Fatiha Quazi; editing by Osham-ul-Sufian Talukder]