Mahmud Hossain Opu The Associated Press Dengue treatment wards in Dhaka's main hospitals are currently full of patients undergoing treatment, under the watchful and worried gaze of their family members.
Some 1,006 people have died from dengue fever in Bangladesh since the start of the year, according to official figures released Sunday evening. And with more than 200,000 confirmed cases, it is the country's worst outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease ever recorded.
According to former director of health services Be-Nazir Ahmed, the number of deaths recorded since the start of the year is more than the combined number of all previous years since 2000, when Bangladesh recorded its first dengue outbreak . “This is a major health event, both in Bangladesh and around the world,” he told Agence France-Presse.
The country has recorded cases of dengue since the 1960s, but it was in 2000 that it experienced its first epidemic of dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Dengue is a disease endemic to tropical areas that causes severe fevers, headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and, in the most severe cases, bleeding which can lead to death.
Some 112 children under the age of 15, including infants, were counted among the dead this year, according to official figures. And the total number of deaths eclipses the previous record, from 2022, of 281 deaths.
Scientists attribute the 2023 outbreak to erratic rainfall and higher temperatures during the annual monsoon, which created ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes. The virus that causes the disease is now endemic in Bangladesh, which has seen a trend of worsening epidemics since the turn of the century.
Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu The Associated Press Dengue and other diseases caused by viruses transmitted by mosquitoes are spreading faster and more due to climate change, says WHO.
Most cases are recorded during the monsoon, between July and September, months which bring the vast majority of the country's annual rainfall as well as occasional floods and landslides. But for several years, Bangladeshi hospitals have been admitting patients suffering from the disease during the winter months.
< p>Dengue treatment wards in Dhaka's main hospitals are currently full of patients being treated under mosquito nets under the watchful and concerned gaze of their family members.
People infected multiple times are at greater risk of complications, according to Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, a doctor at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Dhaka. Most of the patients admitted to his hospital have already had dengue fever two or three times. “When someone gets dengue for the second, third or fourth time, the severity of the disease increases,” he told Agence France-Presse, and “the number of deaths s 'is also increasing.
“Many come to consult us when the disease is already at an advanced stage,” he added. Their treatment is then really complicated. »
Like “a canary in the mine”
Dengue and other diseases caused by mosquito-borne viruses spread more quickly and more due to climate change, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
“The epidemic is putting enormous pressure on the health system” of Bangladesh, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had previously said during an online press conference last month.
Also in September, the agency's director of alert and response, Abdi Mahamud, said that more countries would experience such epidemics with global warming and that global solidarity was needed. This type of epidemic is like “a canary in the coal mine of the climate crisis,” he said, evoking the metaphor of the little bird that sounds the alarm of great danger.
According to him, a combination of factors, including climate change and the cyclical El Niño phenomenon, synonymous with further warming, have contributed to the appearance of serious dengue epidemics in several regions of the world, including Bangladesh and South America . Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Chad, have also recently reported outbreaks, he added.