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A small insect called mosquito can create havoc

Humid monsoon weather, stagnant water from flooding, as well as mounting piles of rotting garbage accumulating in Dhaka have combined to create abundant areas for mosquitoes to multiply
PROF. SARWAR MD. SAIFULLAH KHALED
A small insect called mosquito can create havoc

Apparently tiny but in fact a dangerous insects called mosquitoes can transmit deadly diseases like malaria, zika, dengue, chikungunia and various forms of encephalitis. The world famous philanthropist and entrepreneur Bill Gates, what said about mosquito deserves close attention. He said that “When it comes to killing humans, no other animal even comes close”. According to a report, on an average, sharks kill fewer than a dozen people a year, snakes kill 50,000, humans kill around half a million and mosquitoes kill twice that by transmitting diseases, notably like malaria, dengue, chikungunia etc. By the numbers globally 438,000 deaths from malaria alone occurred in 2015; the majority of them was being children under five.      

Sri Lanka suffered its worst-ever dengue outbreak, with the mosquito-borne virus killing 225 people and infecting more than 76,000 in the first six months of 2017. Alarmed by the magnitude of the crisis, the government deployed 400 soldiers and police officers to clear away rotting garbage, stagnant water pools and other potential mosquito-breeding grounds. Colombo's chief medical officer, Dr. Ruwan Wijayamuni, said that people's failure to clear puddles and piles of trash after heavy monsoon rains compound the problem. Wijayamuni said that "It's pathetic that they don't keep clean their environment. Some residents do not allow officials to inspect the houses and clean them. This is really unacceptable”. Such carelessness on the part of the people happens in Bangladesh also

The Sri Lankan Health Ministry said the number of infections nationwide was 38 percent higher than in 2016, when 55,150 people were diagnosed with dengue and 97 died. The highest number of cases was in the region around the main city of Colombo, though cases were being reported across the tropical island nation. However, Dr. Priscilla Samaraweera of the National Dengue Eradication Unit said that "This is mostly an urban disease". Heavy rains usually leave the cities waterlogged, with puddles and rain-soaked garbage providing ideal spots for mosquitoes to breed and multiply. In Colombo alone, 25 teams of soldiers, police officers and public health inspectors were knocking on doors at people's homes, advising them to clear clogged drains and empty outdoor pots that might have filled with rainwater.

Health officials were also fumigating public spaces. There is no cure for any of the four strains of the virus, which causes a high fever, weeks of exhaustion and in some cases a vicious skin rash. Patients most at risk of dying are the elderly, children or those with other medical complications. Military spokesman Brigadier Roshan Senevirathna said that hospitals were crowded with dengue patients. The army was building two temporary wards at Negombo Base Hospital, about 38 kilometers (24 miles) north of Colombo. It could affect the "lives of all the citizens of the country” and so the authority urged the public to cooperate with officials trying to fight the disease.

Humid monsoon weather, stagnant water from flooding, as well as mounting piles of rotting garbage accumulating in the Sri Lankan capital as it happens in Bangladesh capital also, have combined to create abundant areas for mosquitoes to multiply. The scale of the spread of the disease has been unprecedented and caught Sri Lankan authorities off guard. Authorities have blamed a garbage disposal crisis in Colombo for the spread of dengue. The country's main rubbish tip collapsed in April 2017, crushing dozens of homes and killing 32 people. With nowhere to take the trash, municipal collection has drastically slowed and led to huge piles on the streets which authorities say help mosquito-breeding. Such rotting garbage accumulating and stagnant water are common in the capitals and elsewhere of countries like Bangladesh and India.

Dengue fever has been visiting Bangladesh for the last few years starting in 2000. Thanks to awareness of people, the virulence of dengue could be lessened over the years. But of late mosquitoes have brought in a new danger in the capital Dhaka and elsewhere in Bangladesh. It was warned in May 2017 that Bangladesh is vulnerable to chikungunia. But chikungunia broke out in an epidemic form in the city and elsewhere in the country before the health authorities took sufficient measurers to check the disease. The health and family welfare ministry and the two city corporations of Dhaka combined together organised what they called a “Symbolic” awareness campaign in the middle of June 2017 to warn city dwellers about the dangers related to mosquito-borne diseases when the chikungunia outbreak was in its worst form.

We know that mosquito-borne disease like dengue and chikungunia is a new arrival in our country. But the campaign was symbolic. The action should have gone beyond the symbolic, when dengue is taking its toll on the people’s health. The awareness campaign is indeed necessary, but it is not enough to cope with the disease; the only consolation that fatalities from dengue are low so far. The only panacea for dengue and chikungunia in the country is to eradicate mosquito with a measure akin to that taken by Sri Lankan authority to save people from dengue. The authorities including the two Dhaka City Corporations (DCCs) should take actions to fight mosquito menace immediately if necessary with the help of army.  

Health experts say that two species of mosquito – aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus – cause dengue and chikungunya diseases. The presence of aedes albopictus mosquito in rural areas is very high compared to urban areas.

The virus is transmitted from human to human by the bites of aedes mosquitoes. The suspected dengue and chikungunya patients should visit nearby health complexes and hospitals to prevent outbreak of the disease. People living in rural areas and Dhaka city should be aware of dengue and chikungunya disease. Health experts said that a massive awareness campaign is needed to destroy the breeding grounds of mosquito for stopping outbreak of dengue and chikungunya disease. Dengue and chikungunya affected people should drink much water and take full rest. There is no need of any laboratory test as the diseases could be recognized easily by observing some common symptoms.

Of late dengue has already broken out in an epidemic form in the capital city of Dhaka and elsewhere in the country. According to the Health Emergency Operaration Centre and Control (HEOCC) of the Health Directorate a number of 34,666 persons have already been affected by dengue across the country from January to 08 August 2019 and the number is rapidly increasing as days pass by. The number of death has already crossed 100 and is increasing as days pass by.  People in the rural areas of the country are at high risk for the disease as studies show high presence of aedes mosquitoes in the countryside. Since the disease is taking its toll on the people's health and lives, the authorities needs to take measures to eliminate the breeding grounds of mosquitoes in the cities and rural areas. The experts say that the only panacea for the disease is to urgently destroy all the potential mosquito breeding grounds as the outbreak of dengue has increased sharply in the country.  

Experts say that chikungunya is not serious like other mosquito-borne diseases like dengue. After a particular time, patients get recovery without receiving any special medical treatment. Chikungunya infected patients should not be admitted to hospitals and even they do not need to go to hospitals for any test to diagnose the disease, they added. Chikungunya is a viral disease which is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. Health experts said the symptoms of the disease appear between four and seven days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. However, people are still suffering as the doctors seem to be confused to prescribe medicine and they advise the patients complete bed rest and to take much liquid. They prescribe overdose of painkillers to ameliorate the sufferings of the patients.

Chikungunya is characterized by an abrupt onset of high fever frequently accompanied by joint pain. The other common signs and symptoms of the disease include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash, experts said, adding the joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days or may be prolonged to weeks. However, we are now alarmed at the rate at which dengue is spreading across the country. It is urgent to destroy the breeding grounds of mosquitoes on an emergency basis to save the countrymen from such mosquito-borne dangerous diseases like dengue, malaria, zika, chikungunia and various forms of encephalitis. It brooks no delay.   

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General

Education Cadre

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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