Dhaka, Bangladesh – The sharp increase in dengue fever cases has put pressure on Bangladesh’s fragile health care system, which has been hit by the country’s deteriorating coronavirus crisis.
Just this month, as of Friday, 1,920 people have been diagnosed with this mosquito-borne disease, which represents an increase of more than 600% compared to the 272 cases reported in June.
According to data from the Directorate-General of Health Services (DGHS), a total of 2,292 patients were diagnosed with dengue fever this year, and at least 3 of them died.
Almost all cases of dengue fever, with about 70 exceptions, were found in Dhaka, the huge capital of Bangladesh, where there are approximately 17 million people.
The outbreak of dengue fever has put further pressure on Bangladesh’s healthcare. Due to the vicious outbreak of the third wave of coronavirus, Bangladesh’s healthcare has been on the verge of collapse.
On Thursday night, in the past 24 hours, 239 COVID-19-related deaths were reported across the country, bringing the death toll to 20,255.
According to DGHS data, 15,271 new coronavirus cases were reported during the same period, bringing the total number of cases to 1,226,253.
Bangladesh witnessed the worst dengue fever epidemic in history in 2019, when more than 100,000 cases and 179 deaths were recorded.
According to DGHS data, 1,405 patients were diagnosed nationwide last year, and 7 of them died.
However, the situation has become complicated this year because COVID-19 and dengue fever exhibit similar symptoms, making their diseases more difficult to diagnose.
Most hospital beds and intensive care units (ICU) are already occupied by coronavirus patients, which makes it difficult for patients with severe dengue fever to be admitted to the hospital.
Last week, when Afsarul Haque first discovered that his fever had reached 102 degrees Fahrenheit, he thought he was infected with the novel coronavirus.
The 38-year-old banker immediately called the private laboratory to complete his COVID-19 test. One day later, the result was negative.
However, his fever and headache were getting worse.
“I didn’t expect to get dengue fever at all,” Huck told Al Jazeera.
“But a relative of mine asked me to be tested for dengue fever. I did and the test result was positive.”
Huck has been staying at home according to the doctor’s advice and has been taking medicine.
“I’m on my way to recover. But the trauma I have experienced is exhausting.”
Although Haque is lucky, Sayeeda Nasrin Bably is not. The 35-year-old university teacher died of dengue fever on July 7, the first death from dengue fever recorded this year.
Bably’s brother Golam Hafiz told Al Jazeera that she was taken to a private hospital where the doctor suspected COVID-19.
“She was later tested for dengue fever and it was positive,” Hafez said.
As Barbery’s condition worsened, she was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital. “On July 7, she suffered a brain stroke and died,” her brother said.
Deadly variant of dengue fever
The WHO claims that dengue fever is caused by viruses with four different chains. Recovery from one infection can provide lifelong immunity against that specific chain, but subsequent infection by other chains increases the risk of severe dengue fever.
In Bangladesh, a large number of dengue fever patients have been infected with DEN-3 this year, a variant of the dengue virus that increases the risk of death, according to Dr. Tahmina Shirin, director of the country’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research. IEDCR).
Shirin said that in the past few years, Bangladesh has witnessed the outbreak of DEN-1 and DEN-2 chains, but this year DEN-3 is more common, adding that DEN-3 and DEN-4 chains are considered fatal and will Lead to plasma leakage, respiratory distress and damage to the patient’s organs.
Dr. Md Robed Amin, Director of the DGHS Noncommunicable Disease Control (NCDC) Department, told Al Jazeera that the number of dengue fever cases was high this year because he called it the “wave mode”.
“Dengue fever cases increase every other year. We saw a large number of dengue fever cases in 2019, so it is possible that dengue fever cases will increase in 2021,” he said.
Amin said that entomologists warned about the increase in dengue fever cases in the country earlier this year.
“We (DGHS) provide a copy of this report to citizen agencies to take appropriate actions, such as conducting publicity campaigns and conducting publicity campaigns to control the number of mosquitoes,” he added.
According to entomologist Kabirul Bashar’s forecast, the dengue fever situation in Bangladesh will worsen in August, but he appreciates the efforts of the Dhaka government to contain the peak.
“I have seen two city companies in Dhaka become active in controlling the number of mosquitoes. If their activities are in full swing, the number of dengue fever cases may decrease,” he said.
Brigadier General Jobidur Rahman, chief health officer of Dhaka North City Corporation, told Al Jazeera that they had begun a special cleaning operation in the capital.
“We attach great importance to the increase in dengue fever cases. We are doing our utmost to prevent a further increase in cases in August,” he said.
Additional reporting by Mubtasim Fuad in Bangladesh