Experts have sounded alarm over the spread of mosquito-borne dengue fever in large parts of Bangladesh, including rural areas with limited facilities to treat patients.
The Directorate General of Health Services reported dengue cases in 49 of the 64 districts so far in 2022. Out of the 45 deaths from the disease, 24 occurred outside Dhaka.
Experts say the disease is spreading outside Dhaka due to a lack of measures to control its carrier, Aedes aegypti mosquito. The risk of death for dengue patients also increases outside the capital as treatments are not available there.
After more than 100,000 hospitalisations for dengue with 164 deaths recorded officially in 2019, the numbers declined in 2020 amid COVID-19 lockdowns. In 2021, the disease spread in 58 districts, hospitalising more than 28,000 and killing 105.
This year, more than 12,000 dengue patients have been hospitalised so far. They include 2624 outside Dhaka.
Kabirul Bashar, a professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University who has been conducting research on mosquitoes for a long time, said five dengue patients throughout a year in a district will indicate they came from other districts.
But more patients than this will mean local transmission is taking place, he said.
Out of the 49 districts where dengue patients have been reported this year, 32 have more than five patients.
“Local transmission outside Dhaka is a bit concerning because the districts don’t have programmes to control Aedes mosquito,” said Kabirul.
“We are discussing the situation in the city corporations only while the district and Upazilas remain incapable of controlling the Aedes mosquito and dengue outbreak.”
The expert believes measures taken in Dhaka to control the mosquito have so far kept the situation under control.
Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director of DGHS’s disease control wing, said many people in Dhaka have developed a preventive system in their bodies after being infected with dengue.
“But the residents of other districts are vulnerable to infection. If many people are infected outside the capital, the fatality rate will increase,” he said, noting that the district hospitals do not have experience to tackle dengue outbreak.
Local Government Minister Tajul Islam, however, hopes the disease will not spread in villages.
His office is working on controlling Aedes mosquito and their efforts paid off in Dhaka, where the situation has improved, the minister claimed.
He admitted the risk will increase if the disease spreads outside Dhaka. “It will become difficult to control the situation outside Dhaka. But mosquitos are naturally prevented in the rural areas. This is why I don’t think dengue will spread in the villages.”