The mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) is unwilling to call the prevalence of dengue as an epidemic. He would rather wait for official confirmation by various competent authorities to give the dengue incidence the recognition of an epidemic. The DSCC mayor, moreover, has accused some quarters of exaggerating the situation. He has not explained when a disease like dengue takes an epidemic form. However, the mayor has mentioned that the number of dengue patients in the capital will never reach a total of 0.3 million at any time.
Does he leave a hint here? To call dengue prevalence an epidemic, Dhaka will have to struggle with dengue patients of 0.3 million mark! Whether it is an epidemic or not is immaterial. When 400 dengue patients are admitted to different hospitals in just 24 hours, it is critical indeed. Hospitals -especially government hospitals -are under pressure to cope with the arrival of patients. There is no argument that the breakout of this particular variety of fever has surpassed all previous records in the capital. More and more people are falling victim to this mosquito-borne malady.
What is particularly worrying is the change in the symptom. Before patients have developed the known symptoms, their physical condition deteriorates fast. The platelet count of blood gets reduced drastically. Expert physicians no longer advise that patients should take rest at home; instead they insist that patients get admitted to hospitals immediately. Whether dengue has developed new strains or not is not known because it has not been reported if such research is being carried on anywhere.
Medicine is not a primary option for dengue treatment. Its medical care comprises management of platelets and haemoglobin in blood. Now if 400 or so patients start pouring in hospitals for treatment every day, the situation is bound to go beyond management. Children in particular are the worst sufferers and the majority of deaths take place among them. This year two doctors have also died of dengue -the latest one on Friday. This is indication enough that the fever has become somewhat unpredictable. At least doctors should know what has to be done when taken ill by dengue. But if doctors themselves die of the disease, it is likely to cause panic among the common people.
So, the debate over an epidemic form of dengue is irrelevant. The important thing is to take care of the patients and reduce the number of fresh patients. To do this, there is no alternative to destroying the vector called aedes mosquito. The controversy over the ineffective mosquito spray will do no good. Any assurance of importing highly effective spray, as the minister of road transport and bridges has come up with, will also be of no use if its arrival is inordinately delayed. Usually, the dengue rampages during the monsoon and then gradually subsides. The need for destroying aedes mosquitoes and spraying their breeding grounds is now. After a month or so, the exercise may be useless.
In a situation like this, the inhabitants of the capital and a few other places where the fever has stalked, should fend for themselves as much as they can. People must be extra-cautious during the early morning and dusk when the sunlight is dim to avoid mosquito bite. They have to cover their feet in socks and shoes and should try to stay in places sufficiently lighted. Babies and children may be sent to bed within mosquito nets. Those who cannot avoid exposing their bodies during those critical times of morning and dusk would do well to use mosquito repellent. The virtue of prevention may prove overriding here instead of seeking cure at hospitals.
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