Dengue fever causes the platelet count of patients to drop dangerously low, with the normal platelet count ranging from 150,000-450,000 for those who are healthy. One bag of platelets can be extracted from four bags of donated blood
As Eid-ul-Azha approaches closer, the dengue situation in the country has created a new complication. With majority of Dhaka residents set to return to their home districts for the Eid vacation, relatives of dengue patients at hospitals in the capital are concerned that they may not be able to acquire the much needed blood donations.
Dengue fever causes the platelet count of patients to drop dangerously low, with the normal platelet count ranging from 150,000-450,000 for those who are healthy. One bag of platelets can be extracted from four bags of donated blood.
During a recent visit to Ad-din Hospital in Moghbazar, this correspondent found some relatives of dengue patients, waiting in front of the blood bank along with donors.
Orup De, 20, was admitted to Ad-din Hospital with a platelet count of 100,000. His platelet count had dropped to 15,000 in the following days, and the doctor asked his relatives to find blood donors.
His brother-in-law Sumon told Dhaka Tribune: “We have already donated blood once, which raised his platelet count to 20,000. The doctor said more blood may be needed, but I am not sure how to arrange donations as most of relatives and colleagues are returning to their home districts for the Eid vacation.”
Jahangir Alam, father of a 16-year-old dengue patient at the hospital, said his son’s platelet count is now 14,000, and currently he is in the ICU.
“This hospital has no reserve blood. All hospitals should reserve blood for emergency cases,” he added.
The hospital authorities confirmed that they do not keep blood reserves, instead they rely on parents, and relatives of patients to find donors, in case of need.
A visit to the blood bank of Dhaka Shishu Hospital found that they also did not have any reserve blood.
Intern Shimul Islam, who was on duty at the Dhaka Shishu Hospital blood bank, said: “Relatives of patients can arrange donors themselves. Our hospitals do not keep blood reserves. If any has trouble finding a donor, we refer them to other blood banks, such as that of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS). We provide their phone number.”
Only fresh blood donations help dengue patients
Dhaka Shishu Hospital Director Dr Syed Shafi Ahmed said blood reserves do not benefit dengue patients, as the blood only stays fresh for 12 hours.
“Fresh blood is needed for dengue patients, so it needs to be collected fresh, when needed,” he added.
When asked whether the hospital has a plan to ensure blood donations for dengue patients during the Eid vacation, Dr Syed Shafi said: “It is tough to manage blood for patients during the vacation, as many people leave the capital. It would be good if relatives can manage donations, however, if they cannot find donors during the vacation, we will manage platelets from our doctors, and nurses in emergency cases.”
He also said, it would be helpful if TV channels aired programs advertising the need for blood donations during the Eid vacation.
Voluntary blood donor organization Badhan’s General Secretary (Dhaka University Zonal Parishad) Sharmila Yasmin Dina said: “Previously, the demand for blood donations at our TSC chapter was 15-20 bags per day. However, after the spread of dengue, it has risen to 30-35 bags per day. Our central office has instructed us to speak with relatives of dengue patients to find donors. All of our volunteers are prepared to find donors when needed.”
BDRCS Youth and Volunteer Unit Director SM Ahmed Tuhin also said, the demand for blood had risen after the dengue outbreak, and it is difficult to find donors during Eid.
“We have already instructed all of our volunteers to find donors, so that blood donations can be collected immediately in Dhaka and elsewhere,” he added.
Dr Zahidur Rahman, in-charge of BDRCS, said the demand for platelets had increased to 1,400 bags last month, whereas the monthly demand usually stood at about 200 bags.
However, he added that the demand for blood donations in Dhaka had reduced a little over the past 4-5 days, as many dengue patients are leaving the capital along with their relatives, if the patients are sufficiently healthy.
DGHS DG: We are not under pressure
Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Director General Abul Kalam Azad echoed the BDRCS in-charge in saying that the number of dengue patients had reduced in the capital, but was rising outside of it.
“Pressure will increase at hospitals outside Dhaka during the Eid vacation, but it will not be as high as in Dhaka as the patients will be spread out over several districts,” the DGHS DG added.
He further said, dengue is unlikely to spread in districts outside the capital despite infected patients returning there, as the Aedes mosquito is rare outside Dhaka. “This is a scientific fact. We have made our plans while taking this into account.”
The DGHS DG also said: “The demand for blood donations for this particular type of dengue is not very high. We are not under any pressure, but we have told relatives of patients, and voluntary organizations to be ready to donate blood in emergency situations.
“Four hospitals - Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and Hospital (NICVD), and the National Institute of Neuroscience - are providing 24 hour service. They are collecting and supplying blood and platelets to all government, and private hospitals in Dhaka city, as needed,” he added.
Abul Kalam Azad further said, all hospitals, health complexes, and community clinics had been instructed to keep dengue diagnostic kits, reagent, and medicine in reserve, as well as to provide services during the Eid vacation.