Every year, when rains start to wash over South Asia, so does the threat of dengue. This year is no different – in fact, in Bangladesh, experts expect
the outbreak to be worse, driven by stronger rains and unpredictable weather patterns.
According to the country’s Directorate General of Health Services, nearly 40 percent of high-rise buildings in Dhaka showed signs of the Aedes
larvae, which grow into the virus-bearing mosquitoes that cause dengue. The insect was also found in more than 30 percent of buildings under construction, nearly 15 percent of flower tubs and trays, and almost 20 percent of plastic containers.
In 2019, Bangladesh endured its worst dengue outbreak
on record. Over the entire year, more than 100,000
patients were diagnosed with dengue, of whom more than 160 died of a largely treatable condition. Dhaka, the country’s capital and most densely populated city, was hit the hardest, and many hospitals struggled to find beds for patients.
The country has since learned several important lessons from the experience – including the need for better healthcare infrastructure and engineering solutions to eliminate breeding grounds – though these have not been enough to completely prevent outbreaks. In 2022, Bangladesh counted more than 50,000 cases leading to over 200 deaths, according to the WHO
Experts say the climate crisis is a big driver
of vector-borne infections such as dengue. Rising global temperatures, coupled with stronger and more frequent rains, have pushed mosquitoes well beyond their traditional breeding grounds, exposing more and more people to the virus.
Also dealing with the climate-driven spike in dengue is Sri Lanka, which last week also raised alarms
about climbing case counts. According to Dr. Ruwan Wijayamuni, chief medical officer of health at the Colombo Medical Council, a third dengue serotype is spreading in the country for the first time in 12 years, meaning that most people wouldn’t have immunity to it.
Unlike Bangladesh, however, Sri Lanka is ill-prepared for the new serotype. Upul Rohana, head of the Public Health Inspectors Union, said that the country currently still does not employ early warning systems to avert outbreaks.
“We have been fighting dengue for decades. We still use fairly basic methods,” Rohana told The Island. “We need to do something beyond this.”