The diarrhoea outbreak in the country is rapidly turning grimmer with at least 1.70 lakh patients hospitalised in March, according to data released by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
The situation has not improved in the last month, health officials said, adding they do not expect it to improve in the next two to three weeks either.
Of the diarrhoea patients hospitalised last month, more than 29,000 were admitted to the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) hospital in Dhaka.
The specialised hospital in Mohakhali of the capital is seeing a massive surge in patients suffering from the infectious disease.
According to the Health Emergency Operation Centre and Control Room of DGHS, more than 4.61 lakh diarrhoea patients have been admitted to the icddr,b hospital in the first three months of this year.
Furthermore, 1379 people were admitted on Tuesday alone, while another 786 people were admitted to the hospital on Wednesday till 3 pm.
Dr Baharul Alam, head of icddr,b told the Business Standard, "The number of diarrhoea patients is not coming down. Everyone must drink boiled water. If that is not possible then the water should be purified with alum."
Cholera infection pushing the outbreak
Also, 23% of diarrhoea patients admitted to icddr,b hospital have been found to be infected with cholera.
The high prevalence of cholera infection is partly due to vaccination programmes for the disease being disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"A one-round vaccination drive against cholera was conducted in 2020. But the programmes were disrupted by Covid-19 in later months," Professor Nazmul Islam, director of Disease Control, DGHS, said in a programme at the IEDCR auditorium on Wednesday.
A cholera vaccine can provide immunity against the disease for two years.
Prof Nazmul said, "We have written to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the cholera vaccines. If WHO sends the vaccines, they will be given in high-risk areas."
Currently, the DGHS is continuing 22 surveillance programmes across the country.
In the meantime, Prof Nazmul urged everyone to use clean water for consumption and cooking.
"As long as clean water for consumption cannot be ensured, there will be diarrhoea. That is why we have to ensure a clean water supply," he said
He also urged diarrhoea patients in rural areas to seek treatment at hospitals in their respective districts and upazilas, instead of taking the trouble of bringing them to Dhaka.
"The basic treatment for diarrhoea is the same all over the country. The journey of bringing a patient from outside Dhaka to icddr,b only makes their condition worse. Upazila district hospitals have all the resources to deal with diarrhoea," he said.