While the incidence of dengue fever is on an alarming upward spiral, no one knows for certain when fresh insecticide will arrive and when it will be tested for its effectiveness against mosquitoes.
Mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation, Mohammed Sayeed Khokan, has said that the mosquitoes will come under control in his area by the first week of September. And mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation, Atiqul Islam, has said that the insecticide will arrive soon, though he could not specify exactly when.
In a hearing by the High Court held on Thursday concerning which authority will procure the insecticide from abroad, it was ruled that the two city corporations of Dhaka will be responsible for the task, while the local government ministry and other concerned departments will extend cooperation in this regard.
The government’s Health Emergency Operations Centre and Control Room has said that over the past 24 hours, 1712 dengue patents were admitted to hospitals so far, though the actual numbers are much higher.
Official records say 14 persons have died of dengue so far, but Prothom Alo investigations reveal 69 dengue deaths.
The number of dengue patients in hospitals is increasing every day. People are thronging the hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres for dengue tests.
Several private hospitals in Dhaka city have said there is a shortage of the required reagents for these tests. Retailers are taking advantage of this to hike up the prices of these reagents.
The health directorate’s disease control department has said the mosquito population of both the city corporations has risen. They ran a survey in 100 areas in March this year. Then the survey of 17 to 27 July revealed a six-fold increase in mosquitoes.
Addressing an event of Dhaka Medical College physicians last week, health minister Zahid Maleque said mosquitoes had gone up 10 times in number.
Meanwhile, the two city corporation continue using insecticide which scientists have declared ineffective. The two mayors have long been saying that different insecticide would be procured soon, but that has not happened so far.
At a dengue-related coordination meeting held at the health ministry on Thursday, mayor Sayeed Khokan said, “The dengue situation is undoubtedly worsening and the number of patients is increasing.”
When asked when the new insecticide would arrive, the North city corporation mayor Atiqul Islam said, “I will not reveal the date of when I will bring in the new insecticide, but I am trying to bring it in as soon as possible.”
It uncertain when the new insecticide will arrive and it cannot be used immediately upon arrival. The insecticide will have to undergo certain international tests and it will also have to be checked for any side effects.
These tests will be carried out by the government Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research. The institute’s director Meerjadi Sabrina told Prothom Alo that it will take around 7 to 10 days to complete the tests.
Patients mount in number
A visit to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) on Thursday saw a steady influx of patients, with 222 patients being admitted throughout the day. The medicine ward hardly had any empty space at all. A long queue had formed for blood tests. The hospital had a total of 706 dengue patients admitted.
DMCH director brigadier general AKM Nasir Uddin told Prothom Alo dengue patients are being accommodated as much as possible, even in the verandas, under the stairways and in the basement.
Even then if there is not enough space, they will be kept at the Sheikh Hasina Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute which has a capacity for 800 to 1000 patients, he added.
Nasir further said not all other hospitals have such a capacity and so it is most important to eradicate mosquitoes.
Dhaka Shishu Hospital is also under pressure. This children’s hospital has 132 dengue patients till Thursday. One of the patients, six-year-old Musnan, was there with her mother and aunt.
Musnan had been in the hospital for nine days. Not being able to get up and play, the little one idly drew cartoons on her legs, sitting under the mosquito net to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes again.
Another 6 deaths
Dengue patients have been found in all districts except Netrakona. On Thursday there were reports of six dengue deaths. That means the dengue death count has reached 69, according to Prothom Alo, based on information from government and private hospitals and IEDCR.
Over the last 24 hours, two persons died of dengue in Madaripur. One died in Bhairab upazila of Kishoreganj.
Twenty-two year old Sharmeen Akhter died of dengue on Thursday at the Faridpur Medical College Hospital. On Wednesday, 22-year-old Faruk Khan from Shibchar upazila, died at a private hospital in Dhaka.
On Thursday, 12-year-old Md Hamza died at the Bhairab upazila health complex while undergoing treatment for dengue.
Three dengue patients died in Dhaka’s Ibne Sina Hospital.
Entomologist Manzur Chowdhury on Thursday evening told Prothom Alo, “There are two main tasks regarding the prevention of dengue at the moment - killing mosquitoes and destroying their larvae. This is the responsibility of the two city corporations.”
He said the citizens also have a responsibility in clearing out the breeding places of mosquitoes. Initiative must also be taken so that dengue doesn’t spread from Dhaka to other districts. It must be ensured that buses, trains and launches are completely mosquito-free before leaving Dhaka.
*This report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir