By Ruma Paul
DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh is battling a record number of deadly dengue outbreaks, with hospitals struggling to accommodate patients as the disease spreads rapidly in the densely populated country.
At least 293 people have died and nearly 61,500 have been infected so far in 2023, according to official figures, making it the deadliest year since the first recorded epidemic in 2000.
Hospitals, especially in the capital Dhaka, are struggling to accommodate the large number of patients with high fever, joint pain and vomiting, health officials said.
The government has launched initiatives to limit the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, from awareness campaigns to efforts to kill mosquito larvae after a period of rainfall, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said.
“Since we’ve been here, the doctors and nurses have told us they can’t give us a decent bed, but if we stay, they’ll treat us. We had no choice but to sort things out on the floor for my mom and sister, Shariful Islam told Reuters as he watched over his relatives at a government hospital in Dhaka.
There is no vaccine or drug that specifically treats dengue, which is common in South Asia during the monsoon season from June to September when the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the deadly virus thrives in stagnant water.
Experts said they expect to see more cases in August and September. This year’s deaths already surpass last year’s previous record of 281, with the number of people infected just behind 2022’s 62,423 cases.
Early detection and access to proper medical care can reduce deaths to less than 1% of patients.
“When the pre-monsoon rains started in April, so did the Aedes mosquito breeding. The virus had already spread within the community and therefore it was being transmitted,” said Kabirul Bashar, a professor of entomology at Jahangirnagar University.
“This is why we saw such a high number of dengue cases in July. This is likely to increase further in August and September,” he said.
Dr. Yasir Arafat, Save the Children’s senior health and nutrition advisor for Asia, said: “Across Asia, extreme weather events are disrupting the lives of children and this alarming wave of severe dengue outbreaks is just another problem affecting their physical and mental health. affects health.”
(Reporting by Ruma Paul; editing by Tom Hogue)