Bangladeshis use social media to tackle a dengue outbreak

Aedes albopictus mosquito, a carrier of Dengue fever. Image via Wikipedia by James Gathany, CDC. Public Domain.

In the past few years, especially during the monsoon season, the number of dengue fever cases has risen in Bangladesh. This year, it took an alarming turn with a total of 7,179 cases recorded – nearly 2800 of them from the first half of July alone.

As government resources are seemingly overwhelmed by the severity of this recent spike in dengue cases, people are turning to social media to voice their complaints, share information about the spread of the virus, and to spread awareness about how people can protect themselves.

Record highs in July

22 July saw record highs as 403 new dengue patients were admitted to hospitals in a 24-hour period. According to some experts, the effects of climate change, intermittent rain, unusual weather patterns, and lack of cleanliness are the main culprits for the rise in dengue cases. Others also shared that this year's strain of the dengue virus is deadlier than in previous years. According to Twitter user Md. Saif:

“This year the strain and symptom of the disease have changed so you need to go to your doctor immediately after catching the fever” – according to an expert physician at the Bangabandhu Medical Hospital. Severely affected patients are having multiple organ failure – this was unheard of in the previous years.

In an interview with the Bangla Tribune, Dr. Gulzar said that people who were previously infected with dengue have a greater risk of reinfection.

“এবার ডেঙ্গু ভাইরাস তার ধরন বদলেছে। আগের চেয়ে আরও বেশি দুর্ধর্ষ হয়েছে। ডেঙ্গু শক সিন্ড্রোম করছে বেশি। আরেকটা কারণ হতে পারে বিগত বছরগুলোতে ডেঙ্গুতে আক্রান্ত হয়েছেন অনেকেই। অনেকে হয়তো জানতেও পারেননি তিনি আগে আক্রান্ত হয়েছেন। দ্বিতীয়বার তারা যখন আক্রান্ত হচ্ছেন, তখন ব্যাপারটা ভয়াবহ হয়ে উঠছে।”

This year Dengue has a new strain, deadlier. It is inducing Dengue shock syndrome. There may be another cause – many were infected in the previous years, many perhaps did not notice. When they are being infected the second time, it is becoming deadlier.

Reports about new infection cases are spreading on social media and many users are becoming increasingly worried. Shofiq Ahmed shared a Tweet about a newly reported case:

Even the Resident coordinator of the United Nations have been infected.

Twitter user Shorbo Bosonto mentioned:

Even two doctors died in Dengue fever, and people are afraid now. The Dhaka Highcourt has summoned the Chief Health Officers of the government. The death toll is incereasing.

Is the government doing enough?

BBC Bangla Facebook page asked its readers to report back about any efforts by city officials in Dhaka to combat the spread the mosquitos. User Mohammad Mynuddin reported astonishing delays on the part of government officials to address the outbreak:

Nothing has been seen. A (City Corporation) worker has said that it would take a few weeks to import the protective drugs to decrease mosquitoes. He added that within October we would have the drugs. I was astonished ??

With what many see as a lack of government response to the spike in dengue cases, citizens are taking to social media to raise awareness about the virus. Citizen media news outlet Health Barta uploaded a YouTube video detailing what to do when someone has dengue fever:

Many are resorting to social media to collect blood for patients. User Sajid Islam Khan tweeted that he needs blood for his brother who is suffering from dengue. Hannan Gazi posted a similar message:

All the blood warriors of #Dhaka
Come Forward to save lives
We need blood urgently ? for a Dengue patient
?Blood Group: A- A Negative
?Blood required: 2 bags
?When: Today
?Where: Shantinagar, Dhaka।
☎Contact: 01758410473

Independent media The Chittagong Post tweeted:

The symptoms of dengue fevere and what to do..

Amidst the outbreak, the Mayor of Dhaka City North has canceled holiday leave for waste disposal and mosquito deterrent teams. However, to protect people from dengue fever, a lot more effort may be needed.

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