For a global battle against dengue

Shihab Sarkar | Published: July 14, 2018 22:27:52 | Updated: July 15, 2018 21:56:40


 

The hide-and-seek of bright sun and rain at intermissions during the mid-monsoon is a pleasant feature of Bangladesh nature. Behind this play of nature lurks something dreadful. It's dengue. The much-feared disease has been plaguing the country's urban areas for over two decades. Dhaka has emerged as being the most affected by it. Hundreds of people, mostly children, have died of the Aedes mosquito-borne ailment.  Others have suffered miserably.

Proving its virtual invincibility, the dengue vector has already stricken Dhaka this year. Hospitals, clinics and doctors' chambers are seen being filled with patients who have contracted the ailment, generally a high fever. In extreme cases, a few other complications accompany it. Many later emerge as fatal. Dhaka has been used to anti-dengue campaigns for the last few years. These are focused on destroying the breeding grounds of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the lone vector responsible for transmission of the disease. Besides, social mobilisation on dengue-prevention measures also comprises the drives. Vast sections of the Dhaka residents are quite aware of the fact that the Aedes mosquitoes grow only in clean rain water --- especially in the sunny days in between rains. The water collects generally in various types of containers including household pots, flower tubs, green coconut shells etc. The anti-dengue drives urge people to destroy these hazardous containers and keep their house premises clean. Ironically, the people who have received these advices do not seem to be prepared to lend an ear to them.

Garbage bins in the dengue-prone Dhaka have yet to be cleared of the common Aedes habitats. The two city corporations could not leave any mark in their fight against dengue. Meanwhile, another Aedes-borne scourge, i.e. chikungunya, has made its onslaught on the city.

Dhaka has been exposed to the outbreaks of dengue since long. Previously, it would strike the city in years after a considerable gap. Owing to the city's thin population in the past, the incidence of dengue onslaught would go unnoticed. The scourge remained dormant. It did so for a long time before it emerged with full fury in the 1990s. Unlike Dhaka, a lot of South Asian and Southeast Asian cities have endemically been afflicted by dengue in the recent decades. Contrary to the general belief, dengue is not native to humid and tropical countries only. Many sub-tropical, and even cold, regions are used to regular dengue assaults. The information about a few European countries occasionally experiencing dengue outbreaks may seem incredulous to many people in this part of the world. But the dreadful mosquito is nearly omnipresent. Apart from heat and humidity, it can survive in even sub-freezing conditions. Starting from sub-Saharan Africa to reach as far as the Americas and taking turns in Australia, the Aedes mosquito now rules the roost in almost every part of the world.

Thanks to the widespread ignorance about the hazardous disease, inadequate preventions and the clumsy state of treatment, dengue is feared to stay in Bangladesh for years to come. The grim prospect spawns dread, which is genuine. It's due to the deadly nature of the haemorrhagic dengue. Treatment of this type of the disease in Bangladesh is filled with drawbacks. Many patients die owing to wrong treatment.

In such a situation, the Australian medical scientists' recent invention of the method of sterilising male Aedes mosquitoes leading to a drastic fall in the insects' population emerges as great news. Successful replication of the Australian device in dengue-infested countries, including Bangladesh, will help in the task of coping with the scourge. Dengue is now not limited to any specific region. Thanks to its worldwide outbreaks, dengue warrants a global battle like that being fought against malaria or Ebola.

shihabskr@ymail.com

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