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A silent killer lurking around Dhaka

  • Published at 05:54 pm October 13th, 2018
Spreading fast BIGSTOCK

Do we have a plan for dengue prevention?

How would you feel if you wake up one morning, check Facebook, and come to know that the six-year-old daughter of one of your acquaintances has died of dengue? It’s just a couple of days ago you heard that the young girl got hospitalized with fever and skin rashes. It was dengue, the blood test confirmed. 

There was a sharp drop of platelet count in her blood, which went down below 30,000. Her condition drastically deteriorated as her organs started to fail. Eventually, on the third day of hospitalization, she died. 

Now, how would you react when you hear that the girl’s father was a physician himself? And the girl was an only child? It was the child that had come to the couple’s life almost 15 years after their marriage.  

We will never know how this couple would survive their loss. It grieves us to imagine the girl’s death. Shocks us. Chills us to the bone. But the next minute, what we will be thinking about is the safety of our own children. Our family members. Our near and dear ones.     

Two weeks ago, I heard about another death by dengue fever. It was the daughter of the chief financial officer of a reputed private hospital in Dhaka. 

Many of us may remember, in 2015, BNP leader Moudud Ahmed’s only son, Aman Moudud, had also died of dengue fever.  

Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease, is back again in the capital in full swing. 

In most cases, it is the children who are getting infected by dengue virus. Studies show that children older than six years of age are more likely to be infected by this mosquito-borne virus. 

So far this year, the disease has claimed 11 lives and nearly 4,000 people have been infected in the capital alone, according to a Dhaka Tribune report. The new plague is spreading so fast that health experts fear the outbreak might be bigger this year. 

A survey by the Directorate General of Health Services in May found 48 wards of 57 in Dhaka South City Corporation and 26 wards of 36 in Dhaka North City Corporation were vulnerable. 

Another survey done by the DSCC between June 25 and July 15 found a large part of its areas at risk. Of the 2,599 buildings and construction sites it surveyed, it found Aedes mosquitoes in 938 places.  In a mega-city like Dhaka, mosquitoes are everywhere -- in houses, closed space, in open space, in buses, trains, in alleys, at shops by the street, inside the airport, you name it. And after dark, at some places in Dhaka, you may not stand or sit peacefully for a minute, because you have to use your hands to drive the critters away.

Though dengue mosquitoes normally bite during the day, dawn to dusk, they may bite night time as well. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 500,000 people develop severe dengue fever each year. This disease has become an epidemic in many other countries in Asia, Latin America, and Caribbean nations, too. 

But in Bangladesh, there are a myriad of reasons to worry much about it. Our densely populated metropolis of 18 million-plus residents is proud to be the second least liveable city in the world. Cleanliness is clearly not a word that goes with Dhaka. 

People spit right and left in the streets. They urinate openly in public wherever they can find a suitable spot, and sometimes even in traffic islands.     

Dhaka is booming without a plan, madly and uncontrollably -- in every aspect. Needless to say, apartment-builders keep construction materials for months after months on the streets, causing immense trouble for residents. Construction sites, as health experts say, are perfect breeding ground for dengue mosquitoes in the capital. 

Last year, there was a widespread outbreak of chikonguniya. This year it is dengue. Since the first-detected cases of dengue in Bangladesh in 2000, about 49,000 people have suffered from the fever, with at least 316 deaths reported, a Daily Star report says. 

To prevent dengue in Dhaka, maybe it is time to take some fierce steps as in Sri Lanka, where the president himself monitors the situation under a presidential task force. Also, in Sri Lanka, if Aedes larvae are found in someone’s home or property, the person can be punished. 

Rahad Abir is a writer.