Coronavirus risks: Immediate measures required for awareness


A bus waits to transport Bangladeshi nationals evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, following the coronavirus outbreak, to a quarantine center in Dhaka on 1 February 2020. Photo: AFPIt is comforting that Bangladesh is still free of the deadly coronavirus. Country’s disease monitoring arm, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) said no coronavirus was detected in the country, but a member of the WHO (World Health Organisation) advisory committee on pandemic influenza related issues said Bangladesh risked outbreak of the virus.

Though the situation does not warrant panic, but it warrants alertness. Apprehensions will remain over the issue as there is no definite treatment or medicine for the infection. The 300 Bangladeshis brought back from China have been kept in isolation at Dhaka’s Ashkona Hajj Camp to prevent possible spread of the virus. It would be much comforting if they are detected uninfected once the quarantine period is over, but there remains other ways for the virus to break out in the country. It’s so common for people today to travel to countries which may allow the virus to transmit. We are not confident over the skill and effectiveness of our health management to control the outbreak as it lacked capacity all along to contain infectious diseases.

According to experts, the people of Bangladesh are neither much aware nor prepared to prevent communicable diseases. Preventing the novel coronavirus could be taken as the strategy and opportunity to build up a successful health movement.

We must consider the fact that coronavirus which has broken out after Nipah, Ebola, SARS or MERS, is not the end. So, the health awareness of common people must be raised as an effective strategy to prevent such diseases. Bangladesh risks the virus outbreak as animals and mammals are a big source of the infection. The people here are not much conscious over infections that originate from mammals. Meat is processed and sold here in unhygienic environment and animals are not conserved properly while neither the government nor the private sector seems to care to set up quality abattoirs. All these contribute to turn Bangladesh into a potential soft target for any infection outbreak at any corner of the world at any time. This calls for a permanent solution.

A top level government expert committee has already been formed to prevent the new virus, but no information regarding the institutional capacity of the country in detecting the virus has yet been appeared in media. We expect that the authorities concerned will come up with an explanation soon. There is a small-scope hospital for infectious diseases at Mohakhali in the capital, but there is still lack of skilled manpower and infrastructure. A few measures, both short and long term, are essential. Coronavirus is spread by sneezing, coughing, saliva transmission or tears and touch. Awareness must be raised among people over such issues.

We expect the government to take all possible measures to raise awareness among the people, prioritising long term projects to fight infectious diseases.

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