When all the state organs are busy fighting the novel coronavirus, Aedes mosquitoesare spreading dengue silentlyacross Bangladesh.
The number of dengue patients found inthe country in last four months was more than that in the previous year, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
Around 78 percent of total dengue patients have been found in the Dhaka city corporations this year, which was around 50 percent last year.
Experts say the authorities have not taken sufficient measures to control mosquitoesamid the novel coronavirus crisis.
They also think people who are suffering from fever are testing for the novel coronavirusonly. Otherwise, the number of dengue patients would be bigger now.
"Many people are hiding their fever now. That is why, the number of dengue patients decreased in the last two months,"says Dr Kabirul Bashar, an eminent medical entomologist.
There were 199 dengue patients in the country in January, 45 in February, 27 in March and 25 in April this year.
The number of people tested for the novel coronavirus was 144,538 till Wednesday, 12 percent of whom were found positive for the virus.
Experts say the other 88 percent who was not novel coronavirus positive had the symptoms of dengue.
"The government should increase the number of dengue testsalong with the test for the novel coronavirus," Dr Bashar suggests.
Professor Dr Shahnila Ferdousi, director of Communicable Disease Control (CDC) at the DGHS, says, "We have instructed all hospitals and labs to test the coronavirus positive patients for the dengue too. And we are planning to do the same for other patients who have symptoms like fever."
"We have announced adepartment health alert to prevent the dengue along with running the activities to curb the novel coronavirus. We have sufficient dengue testing kits. We are also providing all technical support to Dhaka city corporations for dengue testing," she adds.
In such a situation, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor (DNCC) Atiqul Islam took charge of the office on Wednesday while his counterpart inthe South City Corporation,Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh will assume office on Saturday.
While talking to The Business Standard, Mayor Atiqul Islam said, "Dengue and Chikungunya areround-the-year problems in Dhaka. I have taken the highest precautionary measures so that the diseases cannot spread like the previous years."
"Our mosquito control measures including spraying insecticidesare continuing. But it's not possible to control mosquitoes without the awareness of city dwellers. They have to keep their surrounding environmentclean," he added.
Shah Md Imdadul Haque, chief executive officer of the Dhaka South City Corporation, said they were busy with coronavirus related activities.
"But our spray men are continuing the anti-mosquito moves. We will take more actions after our new mayor takes chair on Saturday," he said.
Although the city corporations' officials said they were taking the highest measures to control mosquitoes, the DGHS data indicates something different.
According to the Health Emergency Operation Centre and Control Room of the DGHS, the number of hospitalised dengue patients was 296 from January to April this year, while the number was 131 in the same period of last year.
Although, nobody has died yet from dengue this year, the number of dengue patientswas 299 till 12 May in the country, 233 of whom were from Dhaka city alone. All the patients except one have left the hospitals after getting cured.
Last year, 101,354 people suffered from dengue and 179 died from it in Bangladesh.
Dr Ayesha Akter, assistant director of the Health Emergency Operation Centre and Control Room at the DGHS, said, "More than one lakh dengue patients were hospitalised last year across the country. It will take time to lower this huge number of dengue patients."
Based on the available evidence, researchers fear that this year the dengue has the potential to spread at a higher level. Data collected so far showed the presence of Aedes mosquitoes was at a risky level in some areas even in April.
Earlier, on March 5-14, a survey on Aedes mosquito larvae density was conducted in 98 wards of the two city corporations.
Although the density level was low then, the surveyors found enough favorable breedingground for mosquitoes.
The density of larvae was higher in ward no 31 in the DNCC and ward no 15, 16, 18, 28, 41, 51 in the DSCC.
Dr Bashar, who is also a professor atthe Jahangirnagar University, said, "There is enough presence of Aedes larvae in Dhaka during the nationwide shutdown. I found a sufficient number of Aedes one week ago in places like bus stands, under-construction sites, where public movement has decreased now."
According to experts, not applying scientific methods to destroy mosquitoes, lack of civic engagement, the manpower shortage in the city corporations, and programmes aimed at controlling only Culex mosquitoes are behind the failure in containing the Aedes genus.