Communicable diseases are caused by the pathogens which can be transmitted to other people from an infected person, animal or a source in the environment. Some of the common communicable diseases prevailing in Bangladesh are Dengue, Malaria, Influenza, Tuberculosis and Rabies. But, due to the emergence of the pandemic in March, COVID-19 has become the top treatment priority for assigned hospitals. Most of the medical workforce have been directed towards tackling it, which leads to the question – What is the situation of the most common and repetitive diseases amidst the grave situation? 

Bangladesh, a tropical country where the Monsoon persists for a long duration, is a heaven for the mosquitoes to breed. The Aedes and Anopheles mosquitoes transmit the pathogens of the aforementioned diseases affecting a mass number of people.

Despite being an irregular event in the past, Bangladesh experienced its deadliest outbreak of dengue fever with 101,354 reported cases and 179 deaths in 2019. However, only 67 people were recorded to have been infected by dengue in August this year, which is considered to be the peak time for dengue outbreak. Experts and the government said this was the result of Bangladesh learning the hard way in 2019 how to minimize dengue infection rate.

Despite being an irregular event in the past, Bangladesh experienced its deadliest outbreak of dengue fever with 101,354 reported cases and 179 deaths in 2019.

Figure 1. Representation of Dengue cases in 2019 and 2020 with respect to COVID-19 cases.

According to the latest survey of the Communicable Disease Control Division of DGHS, flooded basements, plastic barrels and water tanks at construction sites are the prime breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes. The government formed a “Dengue Monitoring Cell” to combat the disease, monitor awareness campaigns and destruction of Aedes breeding grounds under the two city corporations.

Another deadly communicable disease is malaria, mostly prevailing in the hill tracts of Bangladesh. The number of malaria infected cases fell drastically this year even amidst the pandemic, which was due to extensive training and workshops conducted for prevention of Malaria last year.

In Bangladesh, an estimated 200,000 animal bite cases with more than 2000 human rabies deaths are reported annually. According to WHO, Bangladesh is leading a national rabies elimination program towards its goal of eliminating rabies by 2020. GroupMappers have been working with Communicable Disease Control Division (CDC), Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Bangladesh under National Rabies Control and Elimination Program from March 2018 to till date. About 80% of the city’s dogs have recently been vaccinated by DGHS which will work as a barrier to rabies transmission.

Figure 2. Comparison between no. of Malaria cases in 2019 and 2020

Only 58 rabies patients were recorded last year. Under the rabies control program, MDV has been carried out in 60 districts of Bangladesh with a total count of 16,20,000 vaccinated dogs. But no mentionable efforts were given in this subject during the COVID crisis. Rather than culling, a coordinated city-wide mass dog vaccination and sterilization program, coupled with mass awareness program, is the only effective way to address this issue.

Figure 3. Number of Rabies Patients in the year 2019

Zoonotic Disease Control program has been implementing vaccination to dogs throughout Bangladesh through the Mass Dog Vaccination Program (MDV) since 2011. The program has already given vaccine to around 1699430 dogs till June, 2020. However, due to the on-going pandemic of Covid-19, it has not been able to continue performing their activities. But it can be expected that in the coming years, these diseases can be controlled and minimized beyond expectations.

References:
National Malaria Elimination and Aedes Transmitted Disease Control Program, CDC, DGHS
Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR)
Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS)
The Daily Star. (2020, April 28). Dengue Amid Covid-19 Outbreak: With rain comes risk.
Dhaka Tribune. (2020, September 11). How Bangladesh successfully curbed dengue this year.
The Daily Star. (2020, April 28). Dengue Amid Covid-19 Outbreak: With rain comes risk.
Hossain M., Ahmed K., Bulbul T., Hossain S., Rahman A., Biswas M. et al (2012) Human rabies in rural Bangladesh. Epidemiology and Infection 140, 1964–1971.
The Daily Star. (2020, September 14). Why the relocation of street dogs is counterproductive, cruel. 
https://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=84&printable=1

Undergraduate student of the Department of Geography & Environment, University of Dhaka. Member of GroupMappers.

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