Eight-years old Mohammad Shohan receives treatment for dengue fever at Mugda Medical College and Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 15 August 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/MONIRUL ALAM

Bangladesh dengue death toll nears 1,000 amid worst-ever outbreak

Dhaka, Sep 26 (EFE).- An unprecedented dengue outbreak in Bangladesh has taken nearly 1,000 lives and infected close to 200,000 people, even as the authorities struggle to control the surging death toll and caseload.

A doctor on duty checks the report of dengue patients as they receives treatment at Mugda Medical College and Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 15 August 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/MONIRUL ALAM

At least 15 people died from the viral disease in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths in 2023 to 943, the directorate general of health services said on Tuesday, even as experts have blamed an unprecedented expansion of the disease in rural areas for the crisis.

“We are seeing a high number of deaths this year because dengue has spread now in all parts of the country. In the past, the outbreak was limited to mostly urban areas,” Nazrul Islam, a virologist and former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told EFE.

Among the total deaths, 617 people died in the capital – including five in the past 24 hours – and 326 elsewhere in the country, according to government data.

“No matter how inadequate, some control measures are still there in urban centers like Dhaka. But in villages, we don’t see any efforts,” Islam said.

With the latest figures, the mosquito-borne virus has so far killed 350 people in September, the highest number of fatalities in a single month since records began to be kept officially in 2000.

A total of 342 people died in August, another single-month record at the time, while 204 people had died in July, according to DGHS data.

Health rights activists have accused the authorities of negligence and letting the situation aggravate before taking any action.

“Two city authorities in Dhaka showed negligence from the very beginning of the (dengue) season,” said Faiezul Hakim, convener of the Jonosastho Sangram Committee (Public Health Action Committee), old EFE.

Dengue cases in the region usually start rising in July and come down in October.

“The health authorities also cannot avoid their responsibilities. They warned Dhaka city authorities in June that the situation might go out of control this year. But they did not take any measures on their own,” he alleged.

This is the second time that Bangladesh has witnessed more than 200 deaths by the disease in a single year, following a record 281 deaths in 2022.

In the past 24 hours, 3,123 people were hospitalized due to the disease, taking the total number of admissions this year to 1,938,881, although the real number of infections is estimated to be much higher.

The number of cases has crossed the 100,000-mark for just the second time since 2019, when 101,354 cases were reported.

Dengue, a mosquito-borne viral infection that causes flu-like illness, is transmitted by female mosquitoes, mainly of the Aedes species.

The symptoms of the potentially deadly disease include headaches, muscle and joint pains, and body rashes.

Climate change, unplanned urbanization, poor water supply management, and human behavior are often blamed for the spread of the dengue virus. EFE