Dengue worsens, city corporations get busy with mosquito control

Children with dengue receive treatment at Mugda Medical College and Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 5 July 2023Reuters

There was lack of initiative of the part of the two city corporations of Dhaka to control the mosquito population despite the warnings of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) from the outset that the dengue situation might worsen this year. Now the Dhaka north and south city corporations, (DNCC) and (DSCC), are bustling around to control the growing mosquito population when both the number of deaths and infected people are increasing at an alarming rate.

DNCC started using drones from Wednesday to identify breeding grounds of mosquito. At the same time, the month-long combing operation to control the number of mosquito is set to start for the first time year on 8 July. DSCC also has started a special drive to control mosquito from Tuesday.

It is essential to make people aware and involved in the prevention of dengue, say public health experts. But there is lack in the awareness programmes of both the city corporations. Their activity is limited to collecting fines by conducting raids at certain areas. The two city corporations need to escalate their activities prevent dengue, say the experts.

The national malaria elimination programme and Aedes-borne disease control programme of the disease control department of the DGHS conducted surveys thrice in the DSCC and DNCC areas to learn about mosquito population during pre-monsoon, monsoon and post-monsoon periods. This year’s post-monsoon survey was conducted in April. It found presence of 10 per cent larva at some houses. The DGHS at that time predicted the dengue situation could be grave this year.

As many as 62 people died of dengue as of the first week of July this year and some 10,455 were infected. Of them, 584 were admitted to hospital between 8:00 am on Tuesday and 8:00 am on Wednesday while one patient died. The country has never seen such a grim beginning of July in terms of dengue.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, adviser to the government’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), Mushtuq Husain said, “The dengue is spreading every year and we are go on thinking the situation would not be the same next year. That is why we remain pleased with stopgap measures. The dengue situation cannot be faced with such inadequate human resources of the city corporations. They are just using pesticides. But it is the government that has to take the main initiative to control dengue. There is a lacking in this.”

Citing the example of India, the public health expert said Kolkata has successfully controlled dengue to some extent. Emphasis has to be on coordinated interministerial programmes including health directorate and local government.

Public involvement not nincreased

The country experienced a grim dengue situation in 2019. Based on the experience from that year, the two Dhaka city corporations drew up a year-round action plan to control mosquito. That included programmes to be taken in pre-dengue season (January-March), peak season (April-September) and post-dengue season (October-December). Raising public awareness through meetings at the ward-level and educational institutions, processions, public annoucements over loudspeakers, and distribution of leaflets at the two city corporations occupied a large part of the action plan. But nothing much has been done despite repeated warning from the DGHS.

Health minister Zahid Maleque also mentioned this lack of activities of the city corporations to prevent dengue. He was speaking at a seminar on controlling aedes mosquito in the capital on 15 June. He said the number of dengue patients at hospitals is one the rise. The city corporations are working to control dengue. But there are shortcomings in the steps taken so far.

An alarming dengue situation was revealed in a pre-monsoon survey report on mosquito population DGHS published on Tuesday. As per the report out of 98 wards of DNCC and DSCC, 55 are is high risk.

The two city corporations, however, claimed that they have been conducting awareness raising programmes even before the beginning of densgue season. The activities have been increased following the increase of number of patients.

DNCC’c deputy chief health officer Lt. Col. Golam Mostafa Sarwar said it is not possible to prevent dengue without any participation of the people. The city corporation is trying hard to increase public participation.

Speaking about this, DSCC mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh said, “We could keep the dengue situation under control even amid adverse situation. Dengue situation is better than many other countries. We are escalating our activities.”

Drones to find breeding grounds

According to the health directorate, ward 30 is one of the riskiest areas of Dhaka North City Corporation. Ward 30 consists of Baitul Aman Housing in Mohammadpur, PC Culture Housing, Nabodoy Housing, Shyamoli Housing, Uttar Adabr, Dhaka Housing, Rafiq Hosuing, Mansurabad, Adabar, and Shekhertek.

DNCC authorities on Wednesday inaugurated use of drones to locate the hotspots on the roofs of buildings. All the roofs will be checked through five drones, said the DNCC officials. If water is found deposited aon the roofs, magistrates and health department officials will visit and check whether there is any larva.

Patients thronging Mugda hospital

According to the DGHS, a total of 1911 dengue patients, including 1285 in Dhaka, were taking treatment at the hospitals across the country. The highest number of patients, 331, was taking treatment at Mugda Medical College Hospital in the capital. So far 20 patients breathed their last under treatment at the hospital.

Mugda Medical College Hospital authorities said the number of dengue patients at the hospital has been rising from the beginning of June this year. most of the patients are from the capital’s Jatrabari, Dhalpur, Shantibagh, Kajla, Meradia, Mugda and Banasri areas.

Additional director general of the DGHS, professor Ahmedul Kabir said they have a plan to designate a hospital for treating dengue patients if the number of infected people increases.

He said an extremely disconcerting picture of dengue was found in the pre-monsoon survey report. The activities of the city corporations’ including involving people have to be increased by four to five times to prevent dengue, he added.

* The report was originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza