At Mugda Hospital in Dhaka, doctors no longer know where the dengue fever is occurring. give head: three of the ten floors of the establishment are overflowing with patients victims of an unprecedented dengue epidemic.
Nupur Akter, 21, tries to feed her little sister Payel who no longer has an appetite. Two weeks ago, the six-year-old child was urgently hospitalized after being “stricken with uncontrollable tremors”.
Since then, Nupur Akter has been watching for signs of improvement. But he has the impression that the little girl “has weakened.”
This year, the epidemic of dengue, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes, is the worst ever recorded in Bangladesh, with a record of 1,030 deaths and more than 210,000 cases confirmed by hospitals, since the beginning of 2023. For the entire previous year, the disease had killed 281 people in the country.
Dengue fever is on the rise due to climate change, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
This disease, endemic to tropical areas, causes high fevers, headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and, in the most severe cases, bleeding which can lead to death.
A little girl suffering from dengue fever treated at Mugda hospital in Dhaka, October 3, 2023 © AFP – Munir uz ZAMAN
According to the boss of Mugda hospital, Mohammad Niamatuzzaman, general practitioners submerged had to call on their colleagues from specialized services.
“It's an emergency, but a long-term emergency,” Mr. Niamatuzzaman told AFP, adding that his establishment already counts for this year 158 deaths linked to dengue, five times more than last year.
– “It scares me”-
More than 1,000 patients, including 200 suffering from dengue fever grouped on three floors, are currently being treated at Mugda hospital with barely 400 beds available. Thousands more are treated on an outpatient basis.
Emergency admitted to hospital and now recovered, Mohammad Sabuj, a 40-year-old jeweler from Konapara on the outskirts of Dhaka, worries that “almost every household” in his neighborhood has a dengue patient.
“In my workshop, three of the four workers had a fever,” says this father of three boys.
Dengue patients at Mudga hospital in Dhaka, October 3, 2023 © AFP – Munir uz ZAMAN
One of his friends, a doctor, died. “That a doctor couldn't save himself scares me,” he adds, “if something happens to me at my age, what will become of my family and my children?”
If hospital treatment is free, certain medications remain the responsibility of patients. The public medical analysis center is overwhelmed and private laboratories are too expensive for a large part of the population.
Abdul Hakim, 38 years old and a construction worker, watches over his two-year-old son. “Since the day my son had a fever, I have lost my job,” says this father of two whose salary constitutes the family’s only resources.
– “A loan” to save his son –
“I face tests, medicines among other hospital costs thanks to a loan (…) to treat him”, he confides.
A quarter of dengue patients at Mugda hospital are children. children. Overall, children under the age of fifteen account for around 10% of deaths.
Bangladesh has had cases of dengue since the 1960s, but its first documented outbreak was in 2000. Scientists attribute the 2023 outbreak to erratic rainfall and warmer temperatures during the monsoon that created ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes.
Dengue patients and their relatives at Mugda Hospital in Dhaka, October 3, 2023 © AFP – Munir uz ZAMAN
According to the WHO, dengue and other diseases such as chikungunya, fever yellow or Zika, transmitted by mosquitoes of the Aedes genus nicknamed tiger mosquito, are spreading faster and further due to climate change.
The boss of the Mugda hospital emphasizes that his establishment now welcomes patients from rural areas where dengue had never been reported before.
This is the case of Mr. Alep Kari, from the rural district of Shariatpur, where health services are overwhelmed.
“In my life, I had rarely heard of this disease,” says the 65-year-old man. whose wife, also suffering from dengue fever, is also hospitalized.
“This is the first time we have had this fever in our village,” he is surprised. “Many have been contaminated.”
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