Dengue is rapidly spreading through densely populated Bangladesh during this rainy season, prompting concerns that the mosquito-borne illness might lead to a record-breaking number of fatalities and infections for the second consecutive year.
According to official statistics, the virus has already claimed the lives of at least 201 people this year, with over half of the deaths reported in the capital city of Dhaka. Additionally, the number of infections has surpassed 37,000.
Last year, in 2022, the virus caused a record high of 281 deaths since authorities began recording data in 2000. Furthermore, the infection tally reached 62,423 people, marking another record for the country.
Hospitals, especially in Dhaka, are struggling to find space for the high caseload of patients suffering high fever, joint pain and vomiting, health officials said.
There is no vaccine or drug that specifically treats dengue, which is common in South Asia during the June-to-September monsoon season as the Aedes aegypti mosquito which spreads the disease thrives in stagnant water.
Early detection and access to proper medical care, however, can reduce deaths to fewer than 1% of sufferers.
The government has launched initiatives to limit the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, from awareness campaigns to efforts to kill mosquito larvae following the current spell of rains, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said.
Renowned Bangladeshi physician ABM Abdullah told Reuters that early diagnosis was also key.
“Aedes aegypti mosquito has evolved, and virus now does not cause critical symptoms in many cases,” he said. “Because of this, people often ignore it, but the disease must be diagnosed early so that people can be treated before it gets complicated.”