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The latest wave of coronavirus infections in several South Asian nations has been complicated by a surge in dengue, a mosquito-transmitted virus that spreads during monsoon season.
The rise in cases of dengue — which can have symptoms similar to those of the coronavirus, such as fever, headaches and body aches — is adding to the load of hospitals that are already overwhelmed.
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are experiencing some of the worst surges in dengue. Sri Lanka has reported more than 17,000 cases this year, including nearly 3,300 in July. Bangladesh has recorded about 4,500 cases of hospitalization for dengue this year, nearly half of them in July.
“The health system is already overburdened by Covid-19 patients,” said Dr. Himali Herath, a consultant physician at Sri Lanka’s National Dengue Control Unit. “Caring for dengue patients is labor-intensive. Therefore it will be very difficult.”
The World Health Organization estimates that there are hundreds of millions of dengue infections every year, and nearly two-thirds occur in Asia. There is no specific treatment for the virus, and severe cases can lead to death if not detected early and if patients do not receive adequate medical care.
“Due to the heavy stream of Covid-19 patients, we are turning dengue patients to other hospitals,” said Brig. Gen. Nazmul Haque, the director of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital in Bangladesh. “We are only treating the patients who are infected with both coronavirus and dengue.”
Dengue outbreaks also remain endemic in India, Nepal and Pakistan. In Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, officials said the main hospital that treated dengue patients in previous years had been turned into a Covid hospital amid the country’s second wave of infections.
The government laboratory where all suspected dengue cases would usually be referred to for testing has also been overwhelmed with coronavirus tests, they said.