Bangladesh in all-out war against dengue

A young Bangladeshi patient suffering from dengue fever rests in a bed at the Mugda Medical College and Hospital in Dhaka. (AFP)
Updated 12 September 2019

Bangladesh in all-out war against dengue

  • Of the 60 confirmed deaths from the virus, 22 of them were children

DHAKA: Authorities in Bangladesh fighting to control the spread of a deadly mosquito-borne virus, which has so far killed at least 60 people, have been warned the crisis could get worse.

Despite desperate attempts to stem the outbreak of dengue fever, the Bangladeshi Ministry of Health and Family Welfare revealed on Tuesday that 753 new cases had been admitted to hospitals across the country in the past 24 hours.

In a statement, the Health Emergency Operation Center and Control Room (HEOCCR) at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said that the number of patients currently undergoing treatment for the disease in government and private hospitals stood at 3,072, out of which 1,434 were in the capital Dhaka.

Of the 60 confirmed deaths from the virus, 22 of them were children.

Dr. Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) told Arab News that preventive measures urgently needed to be put in place, “otherwise the situation may take a turn for the worse in days to come.”

According to official data, 78,617 people have been struck down by the virus in Bangladesh this year alone. Around 95 percent of them were released from hospital after seeking medical help.

“Apart from the capital, Jashore, Barisal, Kushtia and Manikgonj have already been identified as the most dengue-prone areas,” Dr. Ayesha Akther, spokesperson for the HEOCCR told Arab News.

“We have been informed of 197 deaths due to dengue at different hospitals, but to determine whether they were because of dengue or another disease, we would have to thoroughly examine the case histories of the patients.”

Dhaka Children’s Hospital (DCH), the only specialized hospital of its kind in the country, was currently treating 66 dengue patients, said its director, Prof. Syed Shafi Ahmed.

“Children aged between four and eight years are most vulnerable to dengue,” he told Arab News. “Although we are now receiving less patients compared to last month, the number is still high and it’s a matter of concern for us.

“Any type of fever in this situation can’t be ignored and people should test themselves within three days.”

Experts have identified global warming and climate change as one of the main reasons for the outbreak, with other tropical and sub-tropical countries also hit by the virus this year.

“The pattern of rainfall has changed in recent years which has created a favorable environment for the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes,” said Flora.

The IEDCR director added that the Bangladeshi government had given “maximum effort” to dealing with this year’s dengue outbreak. “We have provided dengue test kits in all the government hospitals ... in all private hospitals, the government has fixed the rate of dengue screening at an affordable price too.”

She said a massive awareness campaign was also underway, “the results for which are already visible with the number of new patients being much lower than those registered in August.”

However, Flora warned that Bangladesh was a dengue-prevalent country and preventive measures must be in place to curb the menace. “Otherwise the situation may take a turn for the worse in days to come.”

Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

Updated 17 January 2020

Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

  • Filipino groups in Dubai are coming together to collect goods for donation for the Taal eruption victims
  • The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country

DUBAI: A vast grey stretched across empty villages – once verdant, now lifeless after volcanic ash wiped its colors. The thick charcoal-like substance cloaked cracked roads, tumbled trees, and dilapidated houses, as an angry volcano rumbled in the Philippines.

Tens of thousands of people were displaced earlier this week when Taal Volcano, a picturesque tourist spot about 70 kilometers south of Manila, spew huge plume of volcanic ash to the sky and triggered sporadic tremors around the province.

“When can we go back to our homes?” a hopeful man asked Filipino volunteer Jaya Bernardo, as she visited an evacuation site near where the Taal Volcano erupted on Sunday.

She couldn’t answer him straight, Bernardo said, because that meant telling him there might not be anything to go back to.

Bernardo, who lives in a mildly-hit town around Taal, has been going around evacuation centers to give out care packages, saying it’s “important for people to come together” in times like this.

Within hours of the volcanic eruption, the call for help reached the UAE, home to about a million Filipino expats. Many community groups have been organizing donation drives to collect goods to be sent back home.

Lance Japor, who leads a community group in Dubai, said inquiries were coming in about how to help volcano victims even before a campaign was announced.

“What I’ve noticed is that the desire to help others in need is innate to us,” he told Arab News, adding it was not the first time Filipino expats showed urgent concern and care for their countrymen when a calamity hit the Philippines.

There was a strong response for families displaced from a city in the south of the country after armed rebels captured the area. A community group from Dubai flew to the restive city to hand out gifts to families who had taken refuge in an abandoned building.

Japor’s volcano campaign has attracted the help of private companies such as hotels donating blankets and pillows, and cargo companies pledging to deliver the packages for free to the Philippines.

Filipino expats have also expressed a desire to volunteer, Japor added, and a volunteer event has been scheduled for Jan. 18 at the Philippines’ Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s office in Dubai.

Groups in the UAE are working with organizations in the Philippines to facilitate the donations and determine what the affected communities need. The list includes special face masks and eye drops, said Japor.

The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country.

Volcanic ash has blanketed the area and villages lie empty, with authorities warning of a “bigger eruption” as earthquakes were still being felt around the area. 

The region was at alert level four from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, meaning that “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.” The highest alert level is five.

The institute strongly reiterated total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and high-risk areas as identified in hazard maps.

“Residents around Taal Volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. Civil aviation authorities must advise pilots to avoid the airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose hazards to aircraft,” it added.

Police in the area have also warned residents against trying to go back to their houses without official clearance from authorities, but local media reports said people were sneaking back by boat to the island and nearby towns to check on their possessions.