Dengue spread shows an unusual pattern this year as epidemiologists fear mosquito-borne diseases could worsen the pandemic situation
Dengue infection saw a sharp rise recently with 81 people testing positive with the mosquito-borne disease in the last seven days.
Of them, 39 patients were diagnosed positive with the dengue virus in the first three days of November–at a time when the monsoon is over and the spread of the aedes mosquito-borne feveris supposed to be low.
Public health experts fear many dengue patients might remain out of detection as symptoms of the fever are quite similar to Covid-19 infection.They said the tendency to take medication at home on the assumption that dengue fever is a Covid-19 infection is also not giving the real picture of the spread.
Against the backdrop of the pandemic-driven crisis, the experts emphasized mosquito control as well as adequate dengue testing and proper treatment.
Aedes-borne dengue fever usually spreads in Bangladesh during the rainy season from June to mid-October while the culex menace intensifies in winter. The pattern this year shows an unusual change as epidemiologists had been warning that mosquito-borne diseases could intensify the pandemic situation.
They forecast that the situation will be difficult to handle if the country has to face one-tenth of last year's dengue spread amid the Covid-19 pandemic. They advised controlling dengue in a coordinated way through prioritizing the pandemic.
Dr Md Khalequzzaman, associate professor at the Public Health and Informatics Department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told The Business Standard that dengue screening alongside Covid-19 tests should be carried out as the mosquito-borne disease has been on the rise.
In many cases, patients suffering from fever are taking Covid-19 medications as the two diseases have similar symptoms. But dengue patients need close monitoring, he noted.
The country went through a record dengue situation last year. The BSMMU associate professor cautiously noted that though there is no such risk this year, people should be careful about mosquito-borne diseases.
Dr Afsana Alamgir Khan, deputy program manager (Malaria and ATD) at the health directorate, said all civil surgeons have already been instructed to test patients for dengue in addition to Covid-19.
"Besides, we have already taken an initiative to activate dengue corners in hospitals across the country,"she told TBS.The health directorate official said the authorities have sent 94,300 dengue test kits to medical facilities around the country in advance so that last year's sufferings in coming by dengue treatment do not recur.
She also said that eight health directorate teams are working with the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) staff in "combing operations" to control the mosquito menace.
According to the health directorate's Health Emergency Operations Center and Control Room, 666 people have been infected with dengue so far this year. Of them, 199 patients were identified in January before the mosquito peak season in the monsoon, 45 in February, 27 in March, 25 in April, ten in May and 20 in June. During the peak season, 23 dengue patients were identified in July, 67 in August, 47 in September and 163 in October.
Most of the dengue patients identified are Dhaka dwellers. However, 617patients of those affected have already recovered across the country. At present, 45 patients are undergoing treatment at hospitals while 42 of them are undergoing treatment in Dhaka.
Four people have reportedly died from dengue so far this year. The Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), however, said one patient died from dengue this year. However, this year's dengue situation is so far the best compared to the corresponding periods of the last six years.
Though two Dhaka city corporations discard the possibility of any major dengue outbreak this year, both agree that the number of infections has increased in the last few days. They have claimed that Dhaka North and Dhaka South are very cautious about not letting the situation go out of control.
Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has undertaken a special programme to control the mosquito population. The programme began on November 2 and will end on November 12. In the ten days, a crush mosquito programme will be carried out in 54 DNCC wards along with cleanliness campaigns.
When contracted, DNCC Deputy Chief Health Officer Lieutenant Colonel Md Golam Mostafa Sarwartold TBS, "We launched the programme since dengue infection rises at a time when culex mosquitoes usually breed. The mosquito menace was under control thanks to four special operations conducted from May to August. The special campaign was off for two months (September and October) as the peak season ended."
The Dhaka North official thinks that dengue infection is increasing now as the monsoon came late this year.
In the meantime, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) is conducting mobile courts besides its regular anti-mosquito drives. DSCC Public Relations Officer Md Abu Naser said the corporation is carrying out a mosquito eradication programme after identifying areas (Wards 15, 20 and 66) with higher mosquito larvae.
Experts say there are 123 species of mosquitoes in the country, with about 14 varieties currently found in Dhaka. Each species of mosquito differs in its ability to reproduce, behavioral patterns, and ability to spread diseases. Control measures should be taken separately depending on mosquito species. An integrated approach is required.
In 2019, Bangladesh was hit by the worst dengue outbreak on record. Subsequently, the government formed a committee to provide policy advice in order to ensure insect control and management. The committee, comprised of five eminent entomologists, has been working on dengue spread management.