Last week I was bombarded with the news of yet some more of my colleagues diagnosed with Chikungunya virus. The message was spread to our department through an email notifying that they would not be able to attend the office.
Later that week, another piece of news broke that the wife of a colleague caught the debilitating fever and that the later would not becoming into work. Meanwhile, several officials including my manager whom I closely work with have already been going through the ordeal of the raging fever. Again, one of our blue colour workers had developed the same fever weeks before and discontinued office for several days. This brief account indicates that every Tom, Dick and Harry irrespective of their class or gender may be infected by the bout of Chikungunya fever.
I have witnessed the plights of my colleagues infected by the virus disrupting their day to day lives and tasks. Often, they would writhe in pain and have difficulty in either writing with pen or grabbing things with fingers or clenching fists due to knuckle pain. According to fact-sheet of the World Health Organization, Chikungunya is characterised by an abrupt onset of high fever accompanied by joint pain. Other common symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash all over the body. The joint or knuckle pain is unbearable and usually lasts for a few days. But in some cases, this pain may continue even for weeks or months, leaving a devastating impact and causing some acute chronic diseases for the patient.
Since the onset of the onslaught of Chikungunya, more than 3000 people have been suffering from the disease in Dhaka alone, as per the information of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) officials. Understandably, like my colleagues, several thousands of people, who have not sought treatment in hospital, remain out of the official count. Moreover, many people including me are fearful of being caught by the disease at any moment as the mosquito menace by which the virus transmits to human body is still alive and kicking. Despite the fact that the city authorities have taken some measures to curb mosquito scourge, their efforts prove way short of the things required for eradicating mosquito and mitigating public suffering, due to various shortcomings ranging from fund crunch to manpower shortage.
In Bangladesh, Chikungunya virus was first diagnosed in Rajshahi in 2008 and thousands of patients infected with the virus were found in Pabna and Dohar of Dhaka in 2011. In the past several years there has not been reported any case of the disease. However, with early rainfalls this year after a break of about five years the issue has resurfaced. Although there were a few cases of chikungunya at the end of April, the number has been putting up since then and around 60 to 100 calls from chikungunya patients are being received every day through a hotline opened recently, says IEDCR sources.
Open drainage systems and manholes, unattended water reservoirs, poor waste management system, derelict tanks, pots or cans, binning untreated kitchen waste on the road or footpaths, potholes on the road, and even craters in some cases, especially in the capital city because of road, metro rail line and flyover constructions have created a hotbed of the breeding grounds of Aedes mosquitoes-also the bearer of Chikungunya virus, thus adding to a further risk of chikungunya infection. As the mosquitoes are the crux of present crisis of the disease carried by it, destroying the habitats of mosquito is the main preventive measure of the mosquito-borne disease like Chikungunya, dengue, zika etc.
The ministry of health is responsible for conducting concerted campaign for public awareness in case of epidemic disease or any public concernswhile city corporations and other similar agencies in charge of outlying areas are entrusted with the responsibility of destroying mosquito breeding grounds. A few days ago, at a discussion meeting on occasion of the Word Population day, the health minister claimed of doing his part by campaigning on TV and Radio and expressed his dissatisfaction over the failure of the city corporations to control the mosquitos that spread the disease. He also brushed aside the possibility of epidemic turn of the disease. Days after his claim, the mayor of the Dhaka North City Corporation at a press briefing express his sadness and empathy for Dhaka dwellers over the sufferings from Chikungunya disease and assured the people that the city corporation has taken all possible steps in this regard.
Sharing the information, the attending epidemiologists at the briefing said that the prevailing Chikungunya situation can be termed as an epidemic. They also viewed that the declaration so itsolely depends on the government.
In any case, awareness campaign involving mass media along with implementing necessary actions in the filed level is imperative to effectively combat mosquito-borne disease. Health ministry should properly equip the public hospitals with quarantine facilities for giving treatment to a suspected patient, in complete isolation, for preventing the spread of the disease as Chikungunya virus can be transmitted from humans to humans by the bites of infected female Aedes mosquitoes. Proper coordination is to be brought in various agencies or a unified authority can be formed to oversee and accelerate city roads, drains, culverts or other construction work to put a stop on staying open for months. On top of this, city authorities, instead of episodic drive, should conduct regular drive to keep human habitats clean and make the task of applying larvicide and adulticide asroutine work. Last but not the least, city dwellers themselves should come forward to cleaning in and around their house and shunning the practice of throwing unused cans or garbage here and there to preventmosquito habitats from being built up. After all, who does not know prevention is better than cure.
The writer is Associate Engineer at Thakral Information System Pvt Ltd.