The Financial Express

School reopening and dengue

| Updated: September 14, 2021 22:01:14

School reopening and dengue

The reason the policymakers and health authorities have gone for reopening schools is evidently the continued drop in Covid-19 fatalities and patients. During the last 18 months of the educational institutions' closure, there were few spaces which could be regarded as conducive to such a decision. With classes resuming, schools across the country are set to watch increased curricular and cheery activities. Amid this upbeat mood in schools, a section of people has, however, stopped short of fully welcoming the time for school reopening. By pointing out the ground reality, they might feel prompted to term the long-awaited event ill-timed.

Calling the school reopening overly corona-focused, they have singled out the absence of 'health guidelines' aimed at preventing dengue. Though belated in terms of full-blown outbreak, this scourge has lately started taking a heavy toll on people, especially in Dhaka. Barring a few, schools across the country appear to have mustered their strength and capacity in saving their students from Covid-19. They, apparently, prefer to remain oblivious of the other dread --- dengue, at least for now. The development that keeps troubling the health experts is the ferocity with which dengue outbreak keeps rising in Dhaka. As many view it, the school authorities have put the case for dengue on the back burner at their peril. After the ravages it started making in 2000, the Aedes mosquito-borne disease turned virulent in 2019. That particular year witnessed 179 deaths and 101,354 cases of affliction, the highest since its outbreak in Bangladesh. Thanks to aggressive anti-Aedes drives, the scourge began receding. But its reappearance in a worrying form lately emerged as a cause for concern. In the current year, the dengue outbreak coupled with the roller coaster corona pandemic trajectory has created a fraught public health situation. Taking heart from a remarkable drop in corona fatalities and cases, the government may have found the time ripe for reopening schools, colleges etc. But dengue shows few signs of recession in the coming days. As the Dhaka schools were preparing for reopening, the total fatalities from the vector-borne disease stood at 54. The hospitalised cases had already shot past the figure of 13,255. The opening of schools coincides with this.

As dengue is transmissible through an unusual type of mosquitoes, born in stagnant rain water, the long-shut schools appear to be highly vulnerable venues. Schools have to keep open spaces for teenage children's outdoor physical movements, if not playgrounds. Prior to the reopening of these institutions, how many of the schools have bothered to drain out the rain water from their low-lying spaces and fill the puddles holding stagnant water or spread disinfectants is a query pertinent to the schools' eligibility to allow students in. An atmosphere exuding cleanliness is a prerequisite for safety from dengue.

When it comes to schools, especially their reopening after a one-and-a-half-year closure, an atmosphere lacking in hygiene cannot be ruled out. Except for a handful, that's what might have happened to most of the schools in the country. Unlike with Covid-19, dengue doesn't require much external preventive gear like masks, sanitisers etc. Nor are there preventive vaccines or provisions for physical distancing. But the winged vector that carries out the human-to-human transmission of the disease grows and lives in favourable surroundings. Thus compounds lacking in drainage for rain water to pass and left abandoned for long turn vulnerable. Schools should be brought under a programme of thorough fumigation and regular fogging.

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