Controlling Aedes mosquitoes and dengue cannot just be restricted to June and July. The relevant government agencies have accordingly taken up a year-round programme to eradicate mosquitoes and prevent dengue. As preparatory work on the programme started early, there hasn’t been a dengue outbreak as yet this year. However, there is no room for complacence and supervision of the mosquito eradication programme must be taken up in full force. Public awareness must be mobilised in this regard and it will not be possible to bring Aedes mosquitoes under control without people’s participation.
These observations were made at a virtual roundtable on ‘How prepared are we to prevent dengue’, held on Thursday. The meeting was organised by Prothom Alo and the Social and Economic Enhancement Programme (SEEP), with support from UK Aid and Start Fund Bangladesh.
Speaking as chief guest at the roundtable, mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), Atiqul Islam, said just working in the dengue season is not enough. Mosquito eradication and awareness programmes must be carried out the year round in a planned and coordinated manner. Several meeting were held to address the lack of coordination among ministries. There is no alternative to awareness in order to bring Aedes mosquitoes under control. And now advanced technology is being used to detect mosquito breeding grounds.
Mayor Atiqul Islam went on to say that a big syndicate had been involved in anti-mosquito pesticides, but that has been broken and pesticides are being procured. He said within the next two months the people will be able to buy this pesticide. If this pesticide which resembles mustard seeds is used, mosquito larva will not be able to hatch for up to 3 months. He added that there were dengue testing centres in 40 areas of the North city.
People simply strew empty plastic bottles, chip packets, coconut husks here and there. The people must be made aware about controlling Aedes mosquitoes.
Deputy programme manager of the health directorate’s malaria and Aedes borne disease control programme, Afsana Alamgir Khan, said that all out efforts were being made to ensure that the Aedes mosquito borne disease did not spread like last year. So far 52,600 dengue testing kits had been sent to the upazilas. The challenges of 2019 had been identified and initiative had been taken to address these problems.
There was no scope to delegate responsibility of the dengue control programme simply to the state or the city corporation, said Start Fund Bangladesh’s executive committee chair, Rabeya Sultana. She is the Bangladesh country director of Muslim Aid UK. She said that care should be taken to ensure that the dengue control programme is not just Dhaka-centric. Last year 49 percent of the dengue patients were outside of Dhaka.
In his opening address, Prothom Alo associate editor Abdul Quayum said that last year there had been a serious outbreak of dengue in the country. The two Dhaka city corporations had begun a dengue prevention drive. He said that it was hoped that there would be no dengue outbreak in the midst of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
Chief health officer of DNCC, Md Mominur Rahman, said that just because there were fewer patients now didn’t mean there wouldn’t be a dengue outbreak. DNCC had discovered that 40 percent of the places where mosquito larva was found were under-construction buildings. The concerned people must be more careful. He said that there was adequate insecticide in stock, in keeping with the technical committee’s recommendations.
Deputy executive director of SEEP, Tohomina Jesmin, said that SEEP has taken up a three-month preparatory project from 30 April to mobilise public awareness. She said special attention must be paid so that there is no dengue scare during the prevalence of coronavirus.
President of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Akhter Mahmud, said that the building construction code should include how to prevent the breeding of dengue mosquitoes in the buildings. Real time mapping could be done by collecting data on dengue patients and dengue mosquito breeding as well as identifying the breeding areas. This would help in decision-making.
Professor of Dhaka University’s Institute of Health Economics, Syed Abdul Hamid, said that the dengue outbreak last year caused losses of around Tk 5 billion, which included medical expenses and also long-term losses caused by death. However, this did not include costs of mosquito control is houses and also the expenses incurred by the city corporations and such institutions. He said it was essential to have integrated management to control the insects.
Actress, producer and brand ambassador of SEEP Afsana Mimi said that the public has the general idea that all problems were of the government and of the city corporations. The common people had certain responsibilities too. They should keep their surroundings clean. People simply strew empty plastic bottles, chip packets, coconut husks here and there. The people must be made aware about controlling Aedes mosquitoes.
Former chief health officer of the undivided Dhaka city corporation, Brigadier General (Retd) Dr. Md Showkat Ali, said that Bangladesh’s physician and nurses displayed a good degree of success in treating dengue patients. Unless the patient had severe complications, fluid management was enough for full recovery.
Councillor of DNCC Ward 3, Kazi Zahirul Islam, said the combing operation was proving successful to local Aedes mosquito breeding grounds. He said that such drives should continue in August and September too. It would be possible to eradicate dengue if the citizens in every ward were involved in the task.
Medical anthropologist Atik Ahsan said that it was essential to quickly locate dengue patients and then carry out a control drive in a 400 yd radius.
Medical student and city volunteer Alvi Yasar said that he had taken part in the mosquito eradication and awareness drive even during the coronavirus pandemic.
The virtual roundtable was moderated by Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Choudhury.