Saturday, 23 September, 2023

Dengue almost uncontrollable

Lack of coordination blamed

The escalating dengue situation in Bangladesh is causing widespread panic, with a rising death toll and increasing numbers of infected patients nationwide.  

This crisis is largely attributed to a lack of coordination among relevant governmental agencies, including the health directorate and local government units.

However, the entities deny any issues with coordination. “We are not seeing a lack of coordination among the departments or ministries in tackling the dengue situation,” Prof Dr. ABM Khurshid Alam, Director General of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), assured in an interview with the Daily Sun.

According to the DGHS, dengue cases are surging both within and outside the capital. As of July 27, around 58 percent of reported cases are in the capital, with the remaining 42 percent in other regions.

Unofficial reports suggest the dengue virus has spread to all districts and many upazila levels countrywide.

The DGHS's recent survey revealed the presence of both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes in the country, with Aedes aegypti primarily driving the dengue transmission. Aedes albopictus, on the other hand, was found primarily outside Dhaka.

Many hospitals in the capital are struggling to cope with the influx of patients, and those seeking treatment in hospitals outside the capital face challenges due to inadequate care.

Health experts attribute the rapid spread of dengue and the increasing casualties to the ongoing breeding of Aedes mosquitoes and the insufficient destruction of adult mosquitoes and larvae. The situation has been further complicated by the alleged lack of coordination among relevant government authorities in controlling the Aedes mosquito population.

This alarming dengue outbreak underscores the urgent need for efficient inter-departmental coordination, robust preventive measures, and better healthcare facilities. Without prompt and effective action, the situation may continue to worsen, leading to a more significant health crisis.

“There is no coordination among the concerned government authorities and local government units in tackling the dengue situation. That's why, the situation is getting scope to take a turn at an alarming level,” Dr. M Mushtaq Hussain, adviser of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told the Daily Sun.

He proposed an urgent establishment of a joint taskforce involving representatives from various ministries, including health and family welfare, and local government and rural development (LGRD).

Be-Nazir Ahmed, former Director (Disease Control) of the DGHS, concurred, stating, "Only coordinated efforts of different ministries and departments can tackle the dengue situation."

He also mentioned the critical role that skilled manpower plays in controlling dengue transmission, noting the city corporations' lack of qualified personnel in controlling the Aedes mosquito and the absence of a permanent entomologist to conduct anti-mosquito drives.

Indeed, both the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) currently lack a permanent entomologist, a vital role in conducting anti-mosquito drives and predicting potential disease outbreaks.

The LGRD ministry sent letters last month urging all municipalities and city corporations, including the DSCC and DNCC, to intensify anti-mosquito drives and public awareness initiatives to stop the transmission of the dengue virus.

Unfortunately, these calls have largely gone unanswered, with residents reporting minimal anti-mosquito drives and insufficient public awareness programs.

The DGHS data said dengue cases neared 35,000 this month, with the death toll 178 while a total of 42,702 dengue patients were admitted to hospitals and 225 died in the country this year till July 27.

Prof Dr. Nazmul Islam, director (Disease Control) of the DGHS, stressed that there is no alternative to destroying the Aedes mosquito for controlling the outbreak.

ABM Khurshid Alam expressed fears that the dengue monsoon season may extend due to its late start this year.

Dr. Mushtaq Hussain warned of a prevailing public health emergency situation, describing it as a matter of national concern.

Speaking to the Daily Sun, Prof Dr. Kabirul Bashar, an entomologist at Jahangirnagar University, underscored the lack of preparation and measures in many districts and upazilas to combat the dengue situation.