Dengue: How many more deaths will bring the govt to its senses?

Prothom Alo illustration

It would be an understatement to term dreadful the picture depicted by experts during a seminar titled ‘Dengue prevention and control in Bangladesh: way ahead’ at National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine (NIPSOM) auditorium in capital’s Mohakhali this Thursday.

People are dying of dengue every day. The hospitals are overcrowded. Government health services and local government divisions claim that there are no problems or shortages, everything’s running smoothly.

There are two stages of dengue prevention. First, destroying the source so that dengue doesn’t spread. If it can be successful in eradicating the dengue virus-carrier Aedes mosquito, it’s possible to stop this infection from spreading as well.

Secondly, the treatment of the dengue-infected patients. A record number of deaths is pointing towards the fact that we have limitless lackings and weaknesses in both of these fields.

Speakers at the seminar said that the number of patients getting admitted to hospitals is five times less than the number of people actually getting infected. Since people with low income cannot afford to visit private hospitals, they are flocking at the government hospitals.

Advisor to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, Mushtuq Husain rightly said that the country has experienced states of emergency several times for political reasons. But, there has been no state of emergency declared on medical grounds.

He was implying that we do not pay dengue the same sense of urgency as we do for political situations.

Just as the citizens lack awareness, the concerned government departments also have their fair share of negligence in this regard.

While speaking at the seminar, head of entomology department at NIPSOM professor Md Golam Sarwar said, “The mosquito and larvae repellants have lost their effectiveness.” What’s the point of spraying an insecticide that does not kill mosquitos?

The seminar made a 10-point recommendation which includes increasing awareness for dengue prevention, increasing public involvement for dengue control, fixing strategic priorities to tackle the situation, increasing capability in health management, employing creative initiative for patient management in hospitals, implementing coordinated management in mosquito control, distributing mosquito nets, regular mosquito monitoring, involvement of the whole government in dengue control, intensified supervision and regular evaluation of work.

But the question is who’ll bell the cat? How can dengue be prevented from spreading? Dengue types have evolved. If old insecticides don’t work, new ones have to be used. Sources of dengue have to be removed entirely. If suggestive messages fail to make people aware, punitive actions have to be taken.

Nobody has the right to push their neighbors into danger by creating an Aedes sanctuary at their home. However, how aware are the people who will be raising awareness among public themselves, is an issue to be considered as well.

Former director of DGHS’s disease control wing, professor Sanya Tahmina said, “Seeing the current situation, it doesn’t seem like we are united. The dengue issue has been overshadowed because of the elections. This poses a risk of the disaster intensifying even further.”

This statement of Sanya Tahmina has truth in it. In the hubbub of the election politics, the issue of dengue danger is somewhat remaining in the shadows. What’s the way out of this?

While it is possible to reminisce in complacence by saying that everything’s alright, it wouldn’t ensure treatment of the dengue-infected patients. Alongside treatment of the dengue-infected patients, equal attention has to be paid towards preventing its spread as well.