The unusual weather patterns and intense heat have exacerbated ‘flu season’, with some doctors saying that 40per cent of those who come in have a fever, cough or cold.
Bangladesh is seeing a sharp rise in flu cases as the season has changed from summer to fall.
"The number of influenza patients has increased by a significant margin recently. Our target is to get about eight influenza patients each week, but we are getting more than eight a day," according to Dr Md Shahedur Rahman, a resident physician in the Department of Paediatrics at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
He said about 40 per cent of patients he meets on a daily basis in the last few days came in with a fever, cold, or cough, reports bdnews24.com.
These symptoms are quite common at this time of the year, which is called ‘flu season’.
Many people are suffering from colds, coughs, and fever, and many are also getting chicken pox or diarrhoea. However, children and the elderly are most affected, he said.
Autumn has already begun in Bangladesh, but the summer heat has not abated. Doctors say that the unusual weather patterns and the intense heat are also causing illness.
According to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, this rainy season has seen less rainfall than in previous years and the absence of rain at the beginning of autumn has made the heat more intense.
Medical professionals also asserted that once the temperature drops, the hospitals will see fewer cases. But rain will need to fall for a continuous stretch of time for that to happen.
The elderly are more prone to colds and coughing, while children are more vulnerable to influenza, according to doctors and a visit to a few hospitals.
Tahmina Akter, the mother of a 19-month-old baby girl named Jannat, came from Demra to the Paediatric Department of Dhaka Medical College Hospital to consult with a doctor.
She said her daughter has been suffering from a cold and cough for the past two to three days.
“Her cough and cold were getting worse, so I brought her here today. The doctor prescribed medication and said that pneumonia would have developed if there had been a slight delay,” Tahmina said.
"She was sweating heavily due to the intense heat. The doctor suggested that we should keep her clean and promptly wipe away sweat."
Runa Begum was sitting at a bench along with her mother-in-law in front of DMCH outdoor clinic. For the past few days, her mother-in-law has had a cold, cough, and fever.
Runa, who was waiting for the doctor, said: "I purchased medication from the drugstore, but it didn't help. And, due to the cough and cold, respiratory problems have also emerged. As my mother is very old, I rushed her to the hospital right away."
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
According to Dr Shahedur, the spike in influenza cases is due to Bangladesh's ‘flu season’, which lasts from July to October. At this time, the virus is more common in the air.
"This flu season is causing many children to have colds and coughs. And, we are getting a lot of positive influenza test results. The number of influenza patients is currently quite high.”
Most patients do not require hospital admission. Only those who are suffering from severe pneumonia are recommended for admission, but that number is not significant, he said.
“Adult patients are coming to the hospital with colds, coughs, stomach pains, and respiratory issues. Along with this, pneumonia and diarrhoea are also common problems. And, these diseases are indirectly related to heat,” according to Dr Mohammad Shayekh Abdullah, a resident physician in medicine at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
"This year, we are getting more patients in the outdoor clinic. Every day, 900 to 1,000 patients come to the medicine department alone. In the last year, this number was around 800. However, we do not have to refer many patients for admission. Every day, about 30 to 35 patients need to get admitted. They are mainly pneumonia patients with high fevers.”
Former director of Dhaka Children's Hospital Shafi Ahmed said, "This year, more patients are coming to our outdoor clinic than last year and most of them are coming in with a fever, cold or cough.”
He also added that this year many kids are affected with 'hand, foot and mouth' disease, which is similar to smallpox.
"Most people think that it is smallpox, but it isn't. First, children will get a fever. Then, skin rash and oral sores will spread throughout the body within two to three days. We're getting a lot more of it this year."
WHEN WILL TEMPERATURES DROP?
The Met Office says there is little chance of escaping the heat any time soon. There are no indications of rain or a calmer atmosphere in the days ahead.
“There won't be any continuous rainfall this month and the extreme heat will last for a few more days,” according to meteorologist Abdur Rob.
He defined this year's rain as 'poor' and said, "There is a probability of rain in Dhaka from Monday night to Tuesday, but that rain will not last long."
"At sea, low pressure systems are being created regularly. And the impact has fallen on Dhaka and the country's northern region. However, it is raining and will continue to rain in the southern and western region of the country. In essence, the sun is now above our heads, which is generating more heat. The water vapour in the air warms up due to that heat. When this heated water vapour gets close to our bodies, we start to feel discomfort,” he explained.
HOW CAN YOU STAVE OF ILLNESS?
Doctors say the only options to keeping healthy is to wash hands and use masks regularly to prevent getting sick.
Dr Shafi suggested drinking mineral water, remaining indoors during hot weather, and avoiding crowded areas.
To parents, he advised: "Children sweat a lot at this time. So, it's vital to wipe it off quickly."
According to Dr Shahedur, the pandemic has made individuals more conscious of their health than ever before, and as a result, they are defending themselves against many diseases, including the coronavirus.
He requested everyone to continue the habit of wearing masks and said:
"In this heat, you must consume fluids. Children must drink at least 6 glasses of water each day.”
Dhaka Medical College Hospital Resident Surgeon (Emergency) Dr Md Alauddin said, "We need to be careful so that the heat can't do too much damage to us.”
"We must be careful when choosing our outfits. It is best to wear cotton clothing. Colour is also very important. Black clothing shouldn't be worn at this time since it absorbs heat,” he advised.
He recommended taking breaks and drinking saline water for those who work outside.
To informal sector workers, Dr Alauddin said, “Diarrhoea and viral illnesses are more prevalent during this time. In this season, it is common to see rickshaw drivers in Dhaka's many streets sipping lemonade, which costs only Tk 5. Though it is a healthy practice, there is concern that the seller may be using contaminated water, which is a problem. The spread of waterborne illnesses can occur in this manner.”