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The Financial Express

Suicidal inertia in fighting dengue

| Updated: August 08, 2021 21:44:28


Suicidal inertia in fighting dengue

Post-shower clean rain water remaining stagnant for days in pots, half-empty buckets or flower tubs is a common spectacle in the capital. Dhaka residents seemingly find it a strenuous job to clean these containers collecting rain water. The spectacles are commonly found around many middle-class residents. The people residing at these dwellings are not ignorant. They know well about the scourge of dengue, and how its vector, aedes aegypti mosquitoes, grows in the rain water-filled places. But they are found nonchalant.

After a gap of two years, the year 2021 began seeing an alarming outbreak of dengue. Experts observe that the situation might turn worse as the rainy season will take nearly a month to make an exit completely. Overcautious segments of society have hinted at this year's dengue adding to the ravages being caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. If that happens, the terrible consequences are understood.

Calling it a double whammy would amount to be a gross understatement. In 2019, a total of 179 people died in Dhaka from dengue. Few in the capital knew about it.  It is only recently that the news started appearing in the media. Despite the fact that the dengue cases are recording a sharp increase, both the general people and the authorities concerned seem least bothered. Meanwhile, ill-equipped hospitals relatively free of corona patients are bearing the brunt.

They continue to watch the rush of admission-seeking dengue-stricken people of all ages. The sudden change in the situation has caught the private hospitals and clinics off guard. For if left untreated for long, the normal dengue cases might turn complicated warranting specialised medical intervention. There are few statistics on the number of hospitals in Dhaka dedicated to dengue treatment.

There are plausible reasons. After the dreadful outbreak of dengue in Dhaka and its suburbs in the year of 2000, killing 93 in total, the capital has seen remarkable decline in dengue cases. At one point, the number plummeted to just a few. This radical improvement may have prompted the relevant authorities to attach little importance to dengue, which in the past became veritably endemic to the greater Dhaka. As a corollary, the imperative of instilling into the medical sectors the expertise in treating the vector-borne disease was put on the back burner. It proved true for both hospitals and individual doctors.

According to health sector observers, the key to remaining free of the dengue menace is the strong enforcement of preventive measures. The task is supposed to begin at homes. To emphasise the case, there are few alternatives. This must have to be the case. But except a few, most of the citizens are, in fact, not serious about putting into effect the preventive steps.

When it comes to keeping their residences and the nearby localities free of stagnant rain water, a sloth of sorts overcomes them. If one moves round the nooks and cranny of their homes, the common sight encountering them would be the horrific litter. They range from sliced shells of green coconuts, empty plastic containers of sweetmeat, ice-cream or 'doi' (local version of yogurt), to half-broken earthenware to myriad types of rejected pots, etc. All of them are ideal for collecting rain water, and finally they turn into the centres of laying eggs by the aedes aegypti mosquitoes; these types of litter also witness the growth of mosquito larvae, and also their attaining adulthood.

In many of the houses, the roof gardens are found filled with haphazardly kept flower and fruit tubs. Amid intermittent rain and bright sun, many tubs become sources of dengue vectors. Home owners' fully awakened conscience can put the preventive steps into effect. The two city corporations alone cannot shoulder the daunting task. 

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