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Is Bangladesh equipped to fight Chikunguniya?

The number of chikungunya cases has risen to around 3,000 according to IEDCR reports Photograph: (Others)

Delhi, India Jul 20, 2017, 06.45 AM (IST) Rahad Abir

I am in constant fear. Barely a day goes when I do not hear a distant relative or a friend of another friend or an acquaintance of my family hasn’t taken to their bed. The moment I hear it I think to myself: My days are numbered. The anxiety has become palpable. Every day when I wake up and every night when I go to bed I am lucky if am not running a fever. 

Clearly, Bangladesh is succumbing to a widespread outbreak of Chikunguniya.

According to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), the number of reported chikungunya cases rose to around 3,000 on Thursday from 2,748 and 2,700 on the previous two days
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So horrifying is the disease that it is bringing back to me the memories of getting mugged in the past. The muggers, seeing that I am putting up a resistance, slid the sharp blade of a knife across my back.  The aftermath was, later, for many months, I suffered from mugging-phobia. Whenever I walked in a quiet street, every now and then I would suddenly look back like a panicked dog to make sure none was coming to grab me from behind.   

The recent Chikunguniya outbreak in Dhaka city reminds me of those days. 

So what is Chikunguniya? It is a mosquito-borne viral disease that causes fever and severe joint pain. Regardless of having some similarities with Dengue fever, it is not deadly as Dengue, but it could be even deadlier on another level. 

The long, lingering pain in hands and feet will make one become so arthritic that the person can hardly walk. Around a month of your life will fly away, leaving you bed-ridden. The minimum is one week. The older age groups suffer more. For some senior citizens, doctors say, it may take a year or so to fully recover. 

According to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), the number of reported Chikungunya cases rose to around 3,000 on Thursday from 2,748 and 2,700 on the previous two days (Daily Star, 16 July 2017).

In a mega-city like Dhaka mosquitoes are everywhere—in houses, in closed space, in open space, in buses, trains, in alleys, at shops by the street, inside the airport, you name it. And after dark, at some places in Dhaka, you may not stand or sit peacefully for a minute, because you have to use your hands to drive the critters away. 

Yet the scene is unlikely in certain areas of Dhaka. Scores of residents I have seen live trouble free mosquito life.
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Yet the scene is unlikely in certain areas of Dhaka. Scores of residents I have seen live a peaceful and safe life that is free of mosquitoes. There are no mosquitoes in our house, the householders would say proudly. Why is that? The reason could be the house is well-netted. And mostly, the area is cleaner. But the area I live in, Mirpur, do not enjoy that peace. In the evening, I try aerosol. Half an hour goes fine. Then the same again, the critters are back. So, we use the electric mosquito bat (a tennis bat like tool, made in China). 

It’s been months, I quit meditating the first thing in the morning. I can’t concentrate, can’t focus my mind on oneness. It’s the fear of mosquito. Although this Chikunguniya fear is fresh in Bangladesh, mosquitoes are more or less all over the world. 

In a three-star hotel room at Bukit Bintang, Malaysia I encountered mosquitoes. Once in London, we saw a mosquito flying in the room. Among us, only one—a White British, somewhat ran when the flying creature headed toward him. We, all South Asian, laughed aloud. 

On another occasion, I found my colleague—a young Irish girl, with a Band-Aid on the back of her hand. What happened? While cleaning the storeroom, she said, she got a mosquito bite. It did swell a wee bit, so she applied the Band-Aid. I smiled. Thinking back of my country, I resisted telling her that if she were in Dhaka, her whole body would have been wrapped up by bandage then. But, it doesn’t apply solely for Dhaka, the most South Asian cities and countries are alike. 

Bengali poet, mockingly expressed his city life experience: Mosquitoes at night, flies during the day/ This is how in Kolkata I live.
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Iswar Chandra Gupta, a nineteenth century Bengali poet, mockingly expressed his experience of living in a city: “Mosquitoes at night, flies during the day/ This is how in Kolkata I live.” While Kolkata, despite being the first capital of the British empire in India, has a long history malaria epidemic, Dhaka is slowing getting the world’s attention for its poor infrastructure. This is partly because after the creation of Bangladesh, Dhaka started booming without a plan, madly and uncontrollably. As the nation is on the verge of celebrating its 50-year birthday in 2021, it has already earned the reputation of being the worst city to live on this earth. Now, with this Chikunguniya outbreak, things can only go downhill. 

Rahad Abir

Rahad Abir is a fiction writer from Bangladesh. He is the recipient of the Charles Pick Fellowship 2017-18.

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