Dengue to remain, years of containment specialists

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At least 116 dengue patients were hospitalized nationwide in the first 22 days of January 2022, up from 100 in the first five months of 2021, indicating an increasing trend in dengue infections this year, according to official statistics.

The 22-day dengue hospitalization in January is the second-highest in nine years since 2014, data from the Directorate-General for Health Services shows.

According to the DGHS, 92 dengue patients were hospitalized in January 2017, while most 199 people were hospitalized with dengue in January 2020.

Experts fear the disease could persist year-round due to climate changes, favorable temperatures for dengue virus, and hidden stagnant water bodies that serve as breeding grounds for dengue virus-carrying Aedes mosquitoes.

They said city authorities should implement a year-long program to contain the threat.

Kabirul Bashar, a professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University and an expert on vector management, told New Age that from now on there will be no months without dengue patients, a field study he conducted suggests.

“We have seen an altered pattern in the generation and presence of Aedes mosquitoes due to the sustained rainfall over the past year. Even after the rain stopped, Aedes mosquitoes continued to survive in hidden breeding areas,” he added.

He cited some reasons for the dengue presence over the years, including standing water on the site of buildings under construction, water collected in various urban areas after rainfall, and leaks in the Dhaka Water Supply Sewerage Authority’s water supply lines, which led to water stagnation in different areas.

“City governments and other relevant authorities should take steps to eliminate and raise public awareness of these hidden hotbeds. They should implement year-long emergency programs to get rid of such hotbeds, while city authorities are rarely seen destroying the hotbeds,” Kabirul added.

His research also revealed that the number of underground parking spaces is gradually increasing due to changing urbanization patterns.

“People wash their cars in these underground garages and the water that stagnates in these places leads to breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes,” he added.

Also, epidemiologist AM Zakir Hussain agreed with Kabirul Bashar on the creation and existence of the hidden Aedes breeding grounds.

He also said that temperatures are now better for mosquito breeding due to climate changes.

“Any pots or objects that contain clean, stagnant water are potential breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes,” he added.

Entomologist Manjur A. Chowdhury also said that temperature and climate change may have been a reason for the continued reproduction of Aedes mosquitoes.

He said that studies and genome sequencing of dengue virus are lacking, while effective measures to control the spread of dengue virus are few.

“It is not difficult to collect data on hospitalized dengue patients now, since their numbers are small at the moment. They can also track their addresses and take action in and around their homes to help contain dengue outbreaks in the coming days,” he added.

He expressed dissatisfaction with the city society’s measures to combat the mosquito threat, saying they were ineffective.

No dengue patient was hospitalized across the country in the 24 hours to 8 a.m. Saturday, according to DGHS.

Also as of Saturday, 19 dengue patients, including 11 in Dhaka, were being treated at public and private health facilities across the country.

In January 2021, 32 dengue patients were hospitalized, compared to 108 in the last 18 days of the month in 2022, DGHS officials said.

Dhaka North City Corporation CEO Selim Reza said it has conducted mobile courts after making lists of buildings under construction and other vulnerable places, but has not eliminated the dengue breeding grounds due to intermittent rains and changes in weather conditions could.

He pointed out that the company has found larvae in some places even in winter, which is not unexpected.

“We held meetings on this last week. City officials are concerned. We took the mosquito threat seriously. Years of action are being taken to eradicate Aedes mosquitoes and their breeding grounds,” he said.

The city administration will also increase the number of its mobile courts and their activities in the coming days.

According to Farid Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer of Dhaka South City Corporation, city businesses alone cannot contain the dengue threat, the problem requires a multi-sectoral approach as well as high public awareness of the problem and what people should do about it .

“We held two meetings and completed our year-long work plan. We’ve increased fogging and larvicide use. In addition, we have already imported insecticides,” he added.

He said the Dhaka WASA, Public Works Department, Railway Department, Agriculture Departments, roof garden owners and private developers must work together to address the issue.

In 2021, at least 28,429 dengue patients were hospitalized and at least 105 of them succumbed to the disease — the second-highest annual dengue hospitalizations and the second-highest annual dengue deaths since 2000, when the threat began in Bangladesh.

Previously, at least 6,232 dengue cases were hospitalized in 2002, 6,060 cases in 2016, 10,148 cases in 2018 and a staggering 1,01,350 cases in 2019, the highest number of hospitalizations in Bangladesh’s dengue history.

In 2000, 5,551 dengue patients were hospitalized and 93 of them died in the country.

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