Dengue deaths finally confirmed after months of delay
After months of stalling, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) yesterday finally announced that 25 people died of dengue at different hospitals across the country this year.
Among the deaths, five are at Dhaka Shishu Hospital, six at Square Hospital, four at Ibn Sina Hospital, three at Bangladesh Specialized Hospital, two at United Hospital, one at Green Life Medical Hospital, and four outside Dhaka.
All of them died in July and August.
An official of DGHS control room said they have decided not to review the death as it is taking time. From now they will give the data collecting directly from hospital.
Earlier, authorities had said a review is required to confirm deaths due to dengue. Now, they will publish the numbers based on hospital records. They were reviewing the 25 cases but until yesterday were yet to confirm that they died of dengue.
Earlier, DGHS Director General Prof ABM Khurshid Alam had said, "In any epidemic, you have to verify the deaths officially, otherwise you cannot announce it."
When asked why it was taking two months to verify the data, he said, "As the same doctors are treating both Covid, dengue and non-Covid patients, the process is taking time."
Some experts had raised questions about the delay in the announcement. They said a death certificate should be enough in this case. Besides, a former high official of DGHS had said that there is no need to review any dengue-related deaths.
"A review is necessary when the government has to give compensation to a victim's family. Otherwise, there is no need for review before announcing the number of deaths," he argued.
"Once a hospital confirms that a patient has died of dengue, there is no need for a verbal autopsy, as the hospital authorities' statement is enough to determine how the patient died," he added.
"Verbal autopsy" is a method of interviewing one or more people who know about the symptoms and circumstances of the deceased.
In many countries, they carry out an autopsy at the hospital after the death of a patient to improve hospital services, but there is no such provision in this country, he said.
Asked, Dr Tahmina Shirin, head of the death review committee of the government and director of Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, told The Daily Star last week that those involved with the committee do not come to the IEDCR in-person due to the pandemic situation.
To carry out a death review, physical presence of the committee members is a must, for which they failed to start the process, she added.
Manzur Chowdhury, entomologist and former president of Zoological Society of Bangladesh, said area-based report on deaths, dengue infection and its mapping is necessary, and it should be published to make people aware. Mentionable, during the dengue epidemic in the country in 2019, there was confusion over the death toll, after major government hospitals stopped providing information to journalists.
Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora, who led the DGHS death review committee in 2019, told The Daily Star at that time, to release the numbers the committee members assessed medical documents and treatment records of a deceased. And several months later, they conducted a verbal autopsy.
As per DGHS data, 179 dengue patients had died in 2019, and 276 death cases were reviewed.