Can we contain the dengue epidemic?
It is alarming to know that dengue has spread to 57 districts of the country, with the highest numbers of deaths and hospitalisations recorded up until this time of the year. Ominously, we are yet to reach the peak – which might be in the August-September period – when things are expected to get worse. The miserable scenes of hundreds of dengue patients lying on hospital floors, waiting to be treated, give an idea of just how bad the situation already is. We must ask: why has a seasonal and totally manageable outbreak been allowed to go out of control? What steps, if any, have the health ministry and city corporations taken to pre-empt it?
Reportedly, Dhaka has around 60 percent of all dengue cases recorded in Bangladesh. It took several directives from the High Court to get the two city corporations to wake up and take preventive measures. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late by then. It is unfathomable that the city corporations did not start spraying insecticides months earlier to ensure that the larvae of Aedes mosquitoes were destroyed before they could spawn. Residents of many areas have reported not witnessing cleaning drives and regular spraying. Ironically, we apparently have a mosquito control department that has played little to no role in the fight against dengue. Why hasn't it been made effective given the gravity of the present crisis?
And what about the effectiveness of the insecticides used to kill Aedes mosquitoes? According to an icddr,b study released in May 2018, these mosquitoes have become resistant to regular insecticides. Have the city corporations brought new varieties of insecticides that would be effective against the dengue virus? There is still little confidence in the ability of the relevant authorities to tackle this severe public health threat.
It goes without saying that we must all work together for any success in controlling this epidemic. We hope that the government's guidelines for schools and colleges will be rigorously enforced. Care must be taken to regularly clean playgrounds and remove stagnant water from buildings. The authorities must make sure there is no stagnant water anywhere. Awareness programmes for students and residents in general are vital. The government also must conduct cleaning/spraying drives regularly, and expand the capacity of hospitals to accommodate the influx of dengue patients.