Hard hit by COVID, rains spark fear of dengue outbreak in Dhaka

Construction sites are dubbed breeding grounds of mosquito.
Dengue cases are threatening to overwhelm Dhaka’s stretched healthcare system amid the coronavirus outbreak, with the hospitals admitting the highest number of patients with the mosquito-borne disease in the official daily count this year.

The demand for platelet for the dengue patients is growing at an alarming rate as most of them, including children, are suffering from severe forms of the disease.

Experts have suggested bolstering activities to kill mosquitos to stop further spread of the disease.

The authorities, however, say they cannot do much if the citizens do not cooperate.

The hospitals in the city admitted 85 dengue patients in the 24 hours to 8am on Friday, the highest single-day count this year.

They include 38 at Mitford Hospital and 18 children at Dhaka Shishu Hospital. Some of the major hospitals in Dhaka are treating only COVID-19 patients now.

At the Shishu Hospital, three of the child patients were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

“Most of the patients are haemorrhagic or have shock syndrome. The symptoms they have include high fever, headache and diarrhoea,” said the hospital’s Director Dr Shafi Ahmed.

Joynal Abedin, a retired college principal, was diagnosed with the disease five days ago after being admitted to Salahuddin Specialised Hospital with fever.

“The doctor advised that he be hospitalised because of his advanced age and high fever. He's doing better now. But I’ve seen many patients with dengue here,” said his daughter Nasim Abedin.

“And now I’ve learnt that many in our neighbourhood have been infected with dengue. The man in the local pharmacy said relatives of dengue patients buy drugs from him.”

Among the 390 patients being treated at hospitals across Bangladesh for dengue, almost all bar three are in Dhaka.

According to the DGHS, 1,470 patients have been diagnosed with the disease so far this year, and three of them died.

The number of dengue patients in the monthly count dropped to three in April from 32 in January. It jumped again to 43 in May before 272 cases were reported in June.

In the 23 days of July, 1,098 people have been infected.

Professor Dr Md Asadul Islam, chairman of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University’s transfusion medicine department, and AKM Siddiqul Islam, in-charge of Rajarbagh Police Hospital’s blood bank, said the demand for platelet has almost doubled in July from June due to a rise in the number of dengue patients.

Prof Dr ABM Abdullah, former dean of BSMMU’s faculty of medicine, said platelet counts in blood of dengue patients drop significantly after four to five days from infection.

He said parents must prevent their children from being bitten by mosquitoes as they are confined to homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He advised them to use mosquito nets during sleep even in daytime and avoid wearing shorts.

Prof Abdullah also said the authorities should conduct mosquito-killing drives throughout the year instead of doing it only when dengue infections surge.

Medical entomologist Prof Kabirul Bashar of Jahangirnagar University’s zoology department said they had alerted the authorities after finding a high density of Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the dengue virus in Dhaka in June following heavy rains.

“But no one heeded. People are also ignoring the risks.”

Dhaka North Mayor Atiqul Islam said the city corporation always gives importance to the drives to kill mosquitoes, but negligence among owners is turning the under-construction buildings into mosquito-breeding grounds.

“Aedes mosquito larvae are found in around 50 percent of buildings during drives.”

After the emergence of the disease in 2000, Bangladesh recorded the highest number of dengue cases during an outbreak in 2019.

More than 100,000 people were infected and nearly 175 of them died in the year, according to government data.

Experts believe the real figure was much higher because many people did not undergo test.

In 2020, a total of 1,405 dengue patients were hospitalised, and 12 of them died.