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Battling diseases local and alien    

Shihab Sarkar   | Published: June 15, 2019 22:23:03 | Updated: June 16, 2019 22:11:13


The recurring moderate to heavy showers punctuated by bright sunny times delight many. In the changed climate of Bangladesh, linked to a global phenomenon, this weather-related unpredictability portends the spectre of many a scourge. This rain-and-sun hide-and-seek nowadays has few elements of excitement. As has been seen in the last few years, the pre- and post-monsoon period in Bangladesh makes many wary of various diseases. The dengue fever dominates them. The Aedes mosquitoes which are responsible for spreading this excruciatingly painful fever normally reach adulthood around this time. The Aedes larvae also come out of the eggs lying dormant in domestic waste and myriad types of debris only in this season. It is the pre- and post-monsoon time when the rain stops intermittently, allowing the sunlight to dry the sodden nature and other things up. Had it not for the dengue fever, the dramatic spectacle would have been an object of meditative amazement. 

It's true the intensity and menacing force of the dengue fever has dropped remarkably in the last one and half decades. In the last couple of years, the two Dhaka city corporations have invested their best possible logistic and financial efforts in stemming the seemingly irresistible march of dengue. Dengue could not be eradicated due to lack of policy-bred timely actions, poor coordination and public apathy. But it is unanimously admitted that its fatality rate has marked a sharp decline. Dengue patients, especially adolescents and young adults, continue to be admitted to hospitals and clinics. Most of them return home fully cured. However, the haemorrhagic strain of the fever still remains a much-dreaded malady.

To speak despairingly, Bangladesh being in the region of the tropics is home to a lot of communicable diseases. A pretty good number of them are vector-born. What's worse, owing to the unabated warming of the climate and air pollution, agents of diseases previously less prevalent keep becoming widespread. The country has been having its share of common flu since long. But it may not have ever thought of becoming vulnerable to a disease like bird flu. The same applies to Nipah virus and Zika virus. The chikungunya fever appears to be settling in Bangladesh following in the footsteps of dengue. Originating in Sub-Saharan Africa, the fever leaves a debilitating impact on the patients. It causes pain in the bone-joints which may last for months. The density of slum populations in cities and rural settlements spreading to normally inaccessible areas like 'Chars' lead to a murky development: long unheard-of diseases finding new homes. Bangladesh has eradicated the scourge of small pox; classical cholera has been tamed into curable diarrhoeal diseases; traditional malaria cases afflicting villages for centuries are rarely encountered. Yet this is not whole story.

Cerebral malaria has long been native to the hilly areas, especially the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The lately drug-resistant malaria affects the brain and results in the clogging of capillaries, leading to coma and even death. It is caused by a protozoan parasite called falciparum. Not to speak of the outsiders, even the CHT natives dread the fever. The most worrying part of the ailment today is its fast spread to the other areas of the country, especially the various neighbourhoods of Dhaka and other cities. In an age of fast increase in the mobility of people, a virus-carrying person from CHT can travel to the capital unhindered. Unlike people from Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone or Liberia, the cerebral malaria patients can even move worldwide.  In Bangladesh context, a full-blown outbreak of this killer malaria could turn ominous. The crux of the matter is localised diseases can also snowball into nationwide epidemics. For the authorities concerned it is still not too late to start a war on small but threatening diseases.

shihabskr@ymail.com

 

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