The entire country has been gripped by panic to the highest degree over the Covid-19 pandemic for more than four months – with increasing numbers of new cases and deaths.
Amid such a situation, the threatening face of dengue – a mosquito-borne viral fever – is heaping sorrow upon sorrow on the people.
In the first three months of the running year, the number of dengue patients rose several times compared to that during the same period last year. However, dengue cases were reported to have declined in the fourth month, April.
Yet, experts warn that there is a significant risk of rising dengue patients during August and September as these two months are usually regarded as the peak of the disease.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services' (DGHS) Health Emergency Operation Center and Control Room, 341 dengue patients have so far been hospitalised this year. Of them, 337 have already recovered while four others are still undergoing treatment.
However, no death has been reported from dengue this year, according to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
Experts say panic-stricken people now avoid moving outside if they have a fever as hospitals suspect them of having Covid-19. Dengue is not being tested at most hospitals, resulting in a lower number of reported cases of the disease.
Dr Kabirul Bashar, professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University, told The Business Standard that, after a Covid-19 outbreak in March, people with fever opted to stay indoors instead of go to hospitals, in a fear that they might be admitted to a Covid-19 isolation unit.
He also said if there is less movement, the viral transmission will be lower too. This is one of the reasons why the number of dengue patients reported is decreasing this time.
Nevertheless, the actual number of dengue patients is much higher than the number of reported cases, added the professor.
"In a mosquito survey, we observed a large density to the mosquito population in Dhaka. So, everyone needs to be more aware this year," he remarked.
Non-governmental organisation Social and Economic Enhancement Programme (SEEP) is implementing a programme called "Life-saving Early Actions Responding to Nationwide Dengue Outbreak" in Dhaka with the support from Start Fund Bangladesh and UK Aid to create public awareness to keep the city Aedes-free.
SEEP consultant medical anthropologist Atik Ahsan said they are doing community surveillance in four wards of Dhaka North City Corporation.
"We are preparing patient maps to understand which areas are more dengue-prone. It will be helpful to take appropriate measures to deal with dengue in those areas," he said.
"Last year, we saw more dengue patients in the areas adjacent to hospitals," he added.
Beginning of year saw more patients
According to the Health Emergency Operations Center and Control Room data, 199 dengue patients were admitted to hospital in January this year, followed by: 45 in February, 27 in March, 25 in April, 10 in May, 20 in June, and 12 in July so far.
Last year, there were: 38 dengue patients in January, 18 in February, 17 in March, 58 in April, 193 in May, and 1,884 in June.
DGHS' preparations to fight dengue
On May 9, the DGHS instructed suspected patients to be tested for dengue in addition to Covid-19, because both Covid-19 and dengue patients have fever.
The National Malaria Elimination and Aedes Transmitted Diseases (ATD) Control Programme has already provided dengue test kits to 64 districts of the country.
Dr Afsana Alamgir Khan, deputy programme manager of the National Malaria Elimination and ATD, told The Business Standard that over 52,600 dengue testing kits have already been supplied to upazila level hospitals.
For the treatment of both Covid-19 and dengue, 37,000 health workers have been trained, she said, adding, "Our monsoon survey is underway. We will inform the city corporations and other stakeholders with survey results so that they can take appropriate measures."
The first massive outbreak of dengue in the country was recorded in 2000, infecting 5,500 people and killing 93.
However, the record was broken last year as the health directorate said 101,354 people were hospitalised with dengue across the country. The IEDCR confirmed 179 deaths from the disease last year.