The government plans to set up a special 'cell’ to combat dengue and other vector-borne diseases in the wake of the most prolific outbreak of the virus on record this year.
Experts have been pressing for a contingency plan to effectively tackle these infectious diseases and on Saturday, LGRD Minister Md Tajul Islam announced that work is underway to establish a response unit at the ministry, reports bdnews24.com.
Speaking at a seminar titled “Vector problems in Bangladesh: an integrated management approach” organised by the Center for Governance Studies (CGS) in the capital, the minister said an additional secretary has been tasked with doing the due diligence.
State Minister for Information Dr Murad Hasan also spoke at the event moderated by the CGS Executive Director Zillur Rahman.
Representatives from the two city corporations of Dhaka, doctors, entomologists, scientists, and academics addressed the seminar.
The unprecedented spread of dengue this year took a heavy toll on thousands of people across Bangladesh.
As many as 250 fatalities were reported by hospitals all over the country although the government put the death toll at 98 so far after reviewing the cases.
At the height of the outbreak, panic-stricken people were seen queuing up in the diagnostic centers for voluntary testing as confusion reigned in the city corporations over the use of insecticides to exterminate the dengue-carrying aedes mosquitoes.
The High Court subsequently stepped in to stop a tussle between the Local Government Division and the two city corporations over the import of new insecticides.
Dhaka North City Corporation's Chief Health Officer Brig Gen Md Mominur Rahman Mamun admitted to a lack of 'knowledge' on various aspects tied to the prevention and containment of dengue on part of the authorities prior to a WHO mosquito expert's visit to Dhaka in August.
“There has been a knowledge gap. We thought traditional fogging would kill aedes mosquito. But the WHO expert Dr BN Nagpal showed us that fogging does not help,” he said.
“We need to have a platform where everybody will come together with their knowledge and help to address the crisis,” he said, endorsing the mooted cell or central body for vector-borne diseases.
Mamun's Dhaka South City Corporation counterpart Brig Gen Dr Md Sharif Ahmed also acknowledged the failure to take timely steps to curb the outbreak.
“I agree that there was a lack of coordination and there was a problem at the individual level and that’s why we need to set up an intersectoral coordination mechanism,” he said.
State Minister Dr Murad noted that the authorities did not realise that the outbreak amounted to an 'intersectoral' problem which requires the concerted efforts of different governmental institutions to redress.
"Everybody thought it's the health ministry's job to address the problem. But it requires the coordinated efforts of the health, LGRD, environment and disaster management ministries," he said while suggesting the formation of an institute to address vector-borne diseases round the year .
Earlier, Dr Manjur A Chowdhury, an entymologist presenting the keynote paper, said despite the hard-earned successes with malaria, filariasis and kala-azar, among others, vector-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya are now emerging as threats to public health.
He also warned of new problems borne out of culex mosquitoes such as the West Nile disease, once the threat of dengue subsides in winter.
“We need to change the current vector management practice in Bangladesh,” he said, recommending a 'integrated vector management” programme to tackle the issue.
“This integrated management programme can be developed under the LGED ministry. Under this ministry, the Directorate of Mosquito Control can be strengthened sufficiently enough to undertake total mosquito- and vector-management operations throughout the country,” said Dr Manjur.
Kabirul Bashar, a zoology teacher at the Jahangirnagar University, urged the government to take preemptive measures to prevent another dengue calamity next year.
“The effects can be devastating in rural areas so we have to make preparations now,” he said. He also pointed to the lack of an “integrated approach” over the management of dengue for the scale of the outbreak this year.