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Dengue crisis: Dhaka hospitals struggle to treat patients

  • Published at 04:45 pm July 25th, 2019
Dengue patients-Mahmud Hossain Opu
File photo: A child infected with dengue fever being treated at a hospital in Dhaka Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

In the last 24 hours, 547 new patients were diagnosed with dengue nationwide — of them, 532 in Dhaka alone

A record number of dengue cases have been reported across the country this year, with 9,256 patients recorded until Thursday since January 1, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

Eight of the patients have lost their lives between April and July 25, according to latest DGHS control room data. However, unofficially the death toll stands at 27.

A man suffering from dengue also died on a moving bus on his way home in Narail on Thursday.

In the last 24 hours, 547 new patients were diagnosed with dengue nationwide — of them, 532 in Dhaka alone.

That put the total number of dengue patients in July alone at 7,112, whereas a total of 7,450 dengue cases were reported in 2018.

The crisis has worsened over the past week, breaking previous records with the number of cases rising rapidly since July 19.

The number of people infected is also the second highest in the past 19 years.

The current situation has left hospitals and clinics — both state-run and private — in Dhaka and elsewhere, struggling to provide services to dengue patients with the crisis deepening in the capital.

On visits to a number of these hospitals on Thursday, Dhaka Tribune found an overflow of dengue patients, and in many cases, authorities were forced to refuse admission, referring them elsewhere with beds in these hospitals fully occupied.

Parents of 11-month-old Sahara Moni waited more than six hours to get her admitted to Shishu Hospital, after being referred by a private hospital in Mirpur where she was admitted for several days with high fever.

Her father, Md Shahjahan, who came to Dhaka three days ago from Bhola after Sahara got sick, said they suspect their child developed dengue as she was showing all the symptoms of the disease.

Although this hospital has over 600 beds, Sahara had to wait for hours before she was admitted around 6pm on Thursday.

Authorities said some 266 dengue patients were admitted to Shishu Hospital this year and two of them died. Until Thursday evening, 73 dengue patients were admitted and receiving treatment at the hospital.

“We are unable to admit new patients coming in with fever as we don’t have any vacant beds,” said the hospital’s emergency department duty doctor Tahmina.

Another hospital official, requesting anonymity, said they referred 55 children suffering from high fever to other hospitals till 4:30pm on Thursday. Fifteen of them were showing dengue symptoms.

Similar situations were seen at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) and Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital (ShSMCH), with patients lying on the floor in the balcony and general wards.

ShSMCH emergency department’s Dr Muslima Ferdowsi said 95% of the patients were coming in with fever and 90% of them were showing dengue symptoms.

Is dengue turning into an epidemic?

Although Local Government Division Minister Md Tazul Islam on Thursday claimed the dengue situation was under control, several health experts said it was time to declare an emergency in Bangladesh with over 9,000 people infected in the past seven months.

In the Philippines, the health authorities on July 15 declared a national dengue alert after an alarming upsurge in cases of the viral mosquito-borne disease that has left over 450 people dead since January.

Quoting the country’s health secretary, The Guardian has reported that 106,630 dengue cases were reported between January and the end of June – an 85% increase on the 57,564 cases reported for the same period last year.

World Health Organization officials last week described the situation in Bangladesh as “alarming.”

Both former Bangladesh Medical Association president Rashid-e-Mahbub and Prof Dr Mohammad Lutful Ehsan Fatmi, head of the pediatric department at Holy Family Red Crescent Hospital, observed that the dengue situation now can be called an epidemic since the number of patients shot up over the past week.

Rashid said the government should already have a specific plan to tackle this crisis that hits the people every year. But the authorities took steps late and the outbreak is spreading further.

DMCH Assistant Director Bidyut Kanti Paul also said the situation was much more alarming than what it was last year.

However, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mayor Sayeed Khokon yesterday claimed that mass media was exaggerating the number of dengue patients and spreading rumours.

But Health Minister Zahid Maleque also told another program at DMCH that the authorities had failed to properly control the Aedes mosquito population, which is why more people were getting infected with dengue.

He nevertheless added that the death toll was low as the government was able to provide quality health services.

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