Capital Dhaka's sun-drenched streets are an oasis of urban charm, bursting with vibrant culture and lively street life. But lurking underneath this vibrant surface lurks darkness: the dengue virus. It's a disease that sneaks up on its victims with a fever brought on by the bites of tiny, innocuous Aedes mosquitoes, followed by strikes with devastating, and often fatal, fury.
Dengue fever is a global public health concern; however, in South Asia, it may be fatal, with Bangladesh often at the epicenter of potential epidemic outbreaks. According to the Directorate General Health Services of the government, the current year has seen a total of 778 fatalities and 157,172 reported cases of infection in Bangladesh. The issue that must be answered as we investigate this concealed catastrophe is why dengue outbreaks in Bangladesh have become such unprecedentedly severe crises.
The remedy to this puzzle is multifaceted, with its roots in the peculiar challenges of this region, and it requires a concerted effort. Although mosquitoes have a role in spreading dengue fever, the illness is really the result of a perfect storm of ecological, socioeconomic, and medical variables.
Let's first talk about the climate. The Aedes mosquito finds its ideal habitat in the warm, humid climate of South Asia, where monsoon rains and high temperatures are frequent. These tenacious parasites, which spread dengue, love the stagnant water that accumulates in the region during the monsoon. Every puddle is a suitable viral incubator, and every raindrop is a potential virus breeding site. Because of the region's weather patterns, Bangladesh becomes a perennial viral reservoir.
Further exploration of the dengue outbreak reveals the human element at play: urbanization and population density. A combination of a larger population and the appeal of city life has led to a dramatic increase in urbanization in South Asia. Over 170 million people make their home in Bangladesh, with 1329 people per square kilometers. Dengue fever spreads easily when several people are crammed into a small area.
According to a study published by the World Population Review in January 2022, Dhaka's metro region has a population of 22,478,116, with a population density of 23,234 persons per square kilometer, making it the fourth most populated city in the world. Buildings are stacked upon one another, and people scurry through the cramped streets. Due to these factors, dengue may spread like flames in crowded environments. The infected mosquito may quickly spread the disease from one human to another, and the virus can replicate in an extensive number of hosts.
A crowded city center hospital straining under an unexpected flood of people. It's a race against time and limited supplies. Due to the increased number of dengue patients, there is a high demand for scarcity of intravenous (IV) fluid (normal saline solution) nationwide.
Although it may seem so at first, dengue is not a solid antagonist. In an interesting twist, it manifests itself in four different serotypes. One serotype of infection does not protect against other serotypes. In actuality, dengue hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) or dengue shock syndrome (DSS) are both more severe manifestations of the illness that may result from reinfection with different serotypes. The difficulty arises because of the widespread transmission of several serotypes of the dengue virus across South Asia, thereby raising the potential for catastrophic outbreaks.
But being aware of a problem isn't enough. Bangladesh's Aedes mosquito population poses a special challenge for mosquito control efforts. Health authorities face a challenging environment because of the ways in which water is stored, the lack of effective waste management, coordination between governmental apparatus, skilled manpower and the lack of funding for vector control initiatives. The lack of laboratory facilities and entomological experts in urban areas further exacerbates the inefficiency of management strategies.
Moreover, borders between South Asian countries (mostly Bangladesh-India) are often crossed for reasons including business, family, and pleasure. This influx of individuals across international borders is a potential vector for the spread of dengue. It might be difficult to control a disease epidemic in one country if it spreads to adjacent countries. So, we need a reginal vector control apparatus to combat with this tiny enemy.
In conclusion, there are several factors contributing to the urgency of outbreaks of dengue in Bangladesh. There is a tangled web of variables that contribute to the suddenness of dengue outbreaks. It will take the combined efforts of everyone-not only doctors and politicians but also residents of affected neighborhoods and people at large-to end this catastrophe in silence. The dengue virus could be quiet, but our reaction has to be loud and clear. In spite of dengue's relative quiet, it's devastating effects in Bangladesh scream for our help in preventing more suffering and death.
The writer is a Freelance Contributor