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Dengue wreaking havoc in Bangladesh amid pandemic

  • Published at 02:29 pm July 31st, 2021
File photo of dengue patients at a hospital in Dhaka Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The symptoms of dengue and Covid-19 are quite similar which makes it difficult to diagnose them in time

Dengue infection has become a crisis in the country as 70 cases have been reported every day on average during July this year. 

The situation is causing concern among everyone as it comes amid the out-of-control surge in Covid-19 cases across the country.

From July 1 till Friday, 2,090 people were diagnosed with dengue, marking a more than 668% jump in cases from June, when 272 cases were reported.

According to the Directorate General of Health Service (DGHS), a total of 2,462 patients have been diagnosed with dengue this year. 

At the same time, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) reported four deaths with dengue symptoms. However, after completing tests, it confirmed that three of the deaths were due to dengue.

The dengue outbreak has put added pressure on the healthcare system of Bangladesh, as it is already battling the second wave of Covid-19.

Most hospital beds and intensive care units (ICUs) are being filled by coronavirus patients, making it difficult to admit serious dengue patients to a facility. 

Before the circumstances of dengue patients become critical, Tahmina Shirin, director of IEDCR has called for patients to seek medical help.

DGHS Spokesperson Nazmul Islam urged all to take a dengue test along with a Covid-19 test if they suffer from fever, as both the diseases have similar symptoms.

He said: “All the upazila, district and government hospitals have the facilities to conduct dengue tests for free.” The tests could be done in private hospitals as well, he added.

He also urged all to keep their residences and surroundings clean so that the virus carrier could not reproduce.

Symptoms similar to Covid-19 causing confusion

Experts said dengue infections increase during the monsoon season, and like every year this year is no different.

However, due to the Covid-19 surge this year, dengue has become more dangerous and complicated because dengue patients show symptoms similar to Covid-19, making their illnesses difficult to diagnose.

Fever and diarrhoea might lead people to think they are infected with coronavirus. Then when their condition deteriorates further, they go to the hospital and are found to be infected with dengue.

Rakibul Islam, 30, suffered from diarrhoea and fever three weeks ago. As the fever was not going down, he did a Covid-19 test.

The report came out negative, yet he was not recovering. As a result, he was admitted to Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College & Hospital in Dhaka with high fever, and was diagnosed with dengue. 

After a week of treatment, he recovered and returned home.

Also read - ED: Dengue is still as dangerous as ever

Rakib said: “I was scared that I would die if I needed an ICU, because there were no vacancies in that hospital. All the ICUs were full with Covid-19 patients.”

IEDCR Director Tahmina Shirin said of course it was concerning that Covid-19 and dengue were growing critically at the same time.

“We ourselves are concerned about the capacity of the hospitals. However, we have a special dengue treatment guideline, and separate units in different hospitals. This is why we hope to be able to deal with the situation,” she said while adding that awareness among people was needed to control the dengue situation.

Dhaka a hotspot 

DGHS Spokesperson Prof Dr Nazmul Islam, said after 2019, when the country saw a sudden rise in dengue cases, this year was witnessing the same. Almost all the cases have been detected in Dhaka, while a handful of them are from outside Dhaka.

Almost all the dengue cases - about 96% - have been recorded in Dhaka, which is home to about 17 million people.

According to the DGHS, some 170 cases were identified in the last 24 hours (July 29 - 30), among which only six were from outside Dhaka.

At present some 679 people are undergoing treatment at 41 hospitals of Dhaka and 30 people are admitted in hospitals outside Dhaka, according to DGHS. 

Risky DEN-3 variant

This year, in Bangladesh all dengue patients (100%) are being infected with DEN-3, a variant of the dengue virus which can increase mortality risk, according to IEDCR. 

In previous years, Bangladesh witnessed outbreaks of DEN-1 and DEN-2 variants but this year DEN-3 is more prevalent. 

A few Den-3 variant cases were found in Bangladesh for the first time in December 2017. Some were also found in 2018, but it was not significant. However, 90% dengue cases in 2019 were of this variant, Dr Tahmina Shirin said.

She added that the DEN-3 and DEN-4 variants were considered fatal and cause plasma leakage, shortness of breath, and organ damage in patients.

Bangladesh faced its worst-ever dengue outbreak in 2019 when it recorded more than 100,000 cases and 179 deaths.

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