Dengue rages across 60 districts in Bangladesh

Experts said the failure of the authorities to prevent the spread of the Aedes mosquito was worsened by a lack of proper dengue surveillance data.

Helemul Alam and Moudud Ahmmed Sujan

Helemul Alam and Moudud Ahmmed Sujan

The Daily Star


November 3, 2022

DHAKA – The dengue situation in the country is alarming as the mosquito-borne virus has already spread to 60 districts.

Kurigram, Gaibandha, Thakurgaon and Rangpur are the only four districts still safe from the virus, according to data of the Directorate General of Health Services.

At least four people died from dengue and 1,094 were admitted to hospitals with dengue fever in 24 hours till yesterday morning.

With this, the total number of dengue infections in the country this year rose to 40,101, including 12,953 reported outside Dhaka. The fatalities from dengue rose to 152, including 60 outside Dhaka, shows DGHS data.

Of the deaths, 92 were recorded in Dhaka, 23 in Cox’s Bazar, 16 in Chattogram, six in Barishal, four each in Mymensingh and Khulna, two in Narail and one each was logged in Narsingdi, Pabna, Khagrachhari, Bogura, Madaripur and Feni.

Amid this situation, Health Minister Zahid Maleque yesterday stressed the need for strengthening preventive measures by the Local Government Division urgently.

“Treatment will be available in hospitals. But fighting dengue is not possible only through treatment. The local government ministry and the city corporations have to step up preventive measures,” he said at an event at the capital’s Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.

The minister said ordinary people also need to be aware of the infection.

Experts, however, said apart from the failure of the authorities concerned to prevent the spread of Aedes mosquitoes — the carrier of the dengue virus –, a lack of proper dengue surveillance data worsened the situation.

Prof MA Faiz, former director general of DGHS, said a lack of proper information about the actual number of dengue patients and laboratory diagnosis data is a “big weakness” for the country’s health system.

“We have to know the total number of dengue patients [to control the outbreak]. But we don’t have the mechanism,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.

About the government’s efforts on fighting dengue, Faiz said the health department has everything laid down in black and white, including prevention, surveillance, and hospital management. “But I don’t think the action plan is being implemented properly.”

He said the country’s health system is so weak that it is not possible for the authorities concerned to improve the overall dengue situation overnight.

“If the health system can’t be improved as a whole, similar outbreaks will happen every now and then.”

HM Nazmul Ahsan, associate professor at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, told this newspaper yesterday that they were struggling to deliver services to the rising number of dengue patients.

He said they were receiving many patients with expanded dengue syndrome (EDS), which earlier used to be very rare.

EDS is the phenomenon coined by the World Health Organization for cases of dengue fever with rare but dangerous consequences. It mainly leads to complications involving the vital organs, thus is also associated with a higher mortality rate.

Multiple serotypes of the dengue virus are active this year, Nazmul said, adding that patients with serotype-4 were found in Bangladesh for the first time this year.

He said fatalities are also increasing as many patients are not getting an early diagnosis.

RT-PCR testing is very important to know about the serotype of dengue and getting accurate test results specially for secondary dengue cases as NS1 testing and IGM and IGG testing often give fake negative results, Nazmul said.

Stressing the need for admitting critical or risky dengue patients to hospital, the physician said it is not necessary for every dengue patient to get admitted to a hospital, but the reality is that many patients showing mild symptoms are occupying a good number of hospital beds.

He suggested that dengue patients who are children, pregnant, aged, obese and have underlying health conditions be hospitalised early.

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