Over the last few years, Bangladesh has been gripped by an extremely debilitating viral fever. And this time around, the viral fever has been even worse, the patients suffering even more.
Viral fever has become a common affliction now. But it is important to identify what sort of virus is leading to the fever. Though the symptoms may be of common influenza, there is fear of complications. Caution can curtail the complications. However, infants, the elderly, expectant mothers, diabetics and persons with heart, lung or liver disease have less resistance power and so this fever is particularly dangerous for them.
In the meantime, the incidence of chikungunya and dengue increased alarmingly in Bangladesh. Swine flu and bird flu is not common, though 19 patients afflicted with a strain of swine flu were admitted to hospitals in Dhaka, Thakurgaon, Naogaon, Narsingdi, Mymensingh, Comilla, Barisal and Dinajpur from January to April this year. And from June 2009 till last year, several persons died of swine flu in the country, with over 10,000 affected. Swine flu has taken on massive proportions in India and a few other countries even this year.
The poultry industry faced serious losses in Bangladesh and other Asian countries due to bird flu in over the past few years. The bird flu virus was detected in two poultry farms of Dhamrai and Rajshahi in January this year. Flocks of crows died in Rajshahi.
Dengue has spread extensively in the past few years, but this year Dhaka city saw the spread of the chikungunya virus, borne by mosquitoes. Chikunguniya afflicted almost each and every family in the city. The chikunguniya, dengue and zika viruses are carried by certain species of Aedes mosquitoes.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), other than humans, chikunguniya can afflict monkeys, bats, rats and birds. Also, monkeys are similar species can carry the dengue and zika viruses. Pigs carry many viruses and since these are reared in an unplanned manner in this country, the risk is higher.
A burgeoning and dense population, unhygienic environment, unplanned infrastructure, mismanagement, water-logging, lack of waste management and proper sewerage systems contribute to the spread of viral disease. Also, globalisation has led to rapid relocation of people and goods, uncontrolled borders, climate change and global warming. This is conducive to breeding of mosquitoes and various viruses. The rampant use of pesticides in agriculture had increased the resistance power of mosquitoes as well as the spread of the viral diseases.
Persons travelling from countries where these diseases exist, must be monitored strictly at the airports.
Lack of stringent laws allows diseased livestock and tainted dairy products to enter the country freely from the neighbouring country, increasing risks. Eating beef from diseased cows also affects people. Flies and other insects also carry the viruses.
Seasons fever shouldn’t be written off as mere flue but the actual virus must be identified. The source of the fever must be pinpointed. Whether it is of humans or of animals, the consideration must be for ‘one health’. The health ministry, livestock ministry and others need to work together. If not, fresh new diseases will crop up again.
* Mohammed Shahiduzzaman is professor of the parasitology department, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla print edition, has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir