The deadly dengue fever was predicted to start in September this year. However, it has come a lot early and is increasing alarmingly posing a real threat to our total health system. A bite of a little mosquito and everything is over. Many such harrowing tales have already surfaced in the newspapers. Tears are flowing down every day. Fears have become widespread. Hospitals are being overburdened with critical patients.
The world and the country are yet to forget the painful memories of the corona epidemic. Yes, while the scars of the corona are still fresh, dengue is threatening to bring our everyday life to a standstill. How long can one escape from a deadly bite of a tiny mosquito lurking around or in a corner? Newspaper reports are reporting that hotspots of dengue are almost everywhere even in the balconies having flower tubs and vases.
According to DNDi and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 3.9 billion people are at risk of dengue infection endemic in 129 countries, with 70% of cases in Asia. There are about 390 million infections per year, 96 million with symptoms. There was an 85% increase in the number of cases from 1990 to 2019 and 60% of the world’s population is predicted to be at risk by 2080. The above bodies also remarked that dengue treatment puts immense pressure on health systems.
It costs three times more to manage dengue than cholera. Moreover, most dengue cases are underreported with many cases asymptomatic, mild and self-managed or misdiagnosed. As per the experts, initiating drives in areas where the dengue infection rate is dominant is crucial at the moment as killing adult mosquitoes is essential in those areas as they are most likely to be carrying the viral infection.
Previously, residents were encouraged to nurture more rooftop gardens when the temperature hit the roof. Now that dengue has become a menace, those rooftop gardens have become matters of concern. It is indeed a real dilemma. Things have become all the more precarious as a recent report revealed that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes bite all day long. Previously, it was assumed that they bite only in the morning and in the evening. This insect is becoming so adaptive to the environment that mighty men and women are now literally clueless to escape from it.
As the temperature rose beyond 40 degrees Celsius in April, environmentalists and other experts encouraged everyone to have more greenery. In fact, rooftop gardens can contribute meaningfully to reducing temperature, another danger of the time. As sought by the DNCC, the government decided to offer a 10% discount on housing tax in city and municipality areas if the house has a rooftop garden.
Meanwhile, the DNCC deployed drones to help detect and eradicate the larvae of Aedes mosquitoes. In 2022, the drone survey provided visual data from buildings, and 2,600 of them had rooftop gardens. Aedes larvae were later discovered in at least 300 residences. In line with the DNCC, Chattogram City Corporation has recently launched the deployment of drones for the detection of the hotspots of larvae of Aedes mosquitoes.
City corporations and other bodies are running campaigns regularly. Such campaigns are appreciable. However, it is apparent that such bodies are more interested in punishment rather than containment. City corporations are supposed to conduct anti-mosquito drives all year round and spread insecticides to prevent the development of hotspots.
However, such drives are not seen that much these days. Even during this alarming rise of dengue cases, strong drives are missing in large city corporations, especially in the capital and in Chattogram. City corporations seem to be very agile in detecting larvae stations of dengue and less active in destroying such stations with their own equipment and weapons, that is, strong insecticides.
Moreover, there remains a big question about the quality of the insecticides despite a big budget allotted for this purpose. If the city corporations strengthen their mosquito-killing initiatives along with detection of the same in various places and buildings, people would definitely be assured and keener to keep their neighbourhoods clean and free from the larvae of Aedes mosquitoes.
City corporations of the affected zones need to prioritise the issue of the dengue menace and make all-out efforts to drive out this tiny yet terrible insect. Otherwise, people’s lives will become increasingly hazardous. Anyway, however, dengue has become an awe-inspiring danger creating real panic around the country. Sincere and effective efforts are overdue to combat this challenge. In fact, along with human efforts, a divine blessing is also required to remain immune from it.
The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Chittagong. Email: [email protected]