Although the coronavirus infection rate has apparently made a marked fall in Bangladesh in recent weeks, health experts voiced concern that the virus still remains lethal in terms of fatality since the death rate has been showing an uptrend.
Unlike many other countries, they said, Bangladesh has been witnessing a paradox of the coronavirus pandemic since the death rates remain higher amid lower infections.
The experts attributed the growing corona death rate to mainly the ‘nonchalant’ attitude of the Health Ministry towards dealing with the situation, people’s desperateness about the disease, their lack of ‘confidence’ in public health services, late arrival to hospitals and wrong treatment and abuse of medicines.
As of August 31, Bangladesh registered 312,996 corona cases and 4,281 deaths. In comparison with the total tests conducted in the country, the infection rate is 20.19 percent. Against the total number of detected cases, the recovery rate is 65.46 percent while the mortality rate is 1.37 percent.
On July 31, the confirmed coronavirus cases in Bangladesh was 237,661 with 21.98 percent infection rate while the death toll was 3,111 with 1.31 percent mortality rate. That means 1,170 people died only in August and the fatality rate increased by 0.06 percent while the infection decreased by 1.79 percent over the same period.
Contacted, Prof Nazrul Islam, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19, said it seems coronavirus infection is slowing down to some extent, but the fatality rate is on the rise.
He said elderly people and those who have comorbidities are mainly losing battle against the virus. “It’s difficult to say the exact reason behind the growing trend of mortality since we’re not getting enough information from the authorities concerned. The government stopped briefing on the Corona situation abruptly without any reason which is interrupting the flow of information. It’s a blunder …it has sent out a wrong message.”
The expert said people now are not taking the disease seriously and showing less interest in going to hospitals. “Many corona-infected people are staying home and taking treatment there as they lack trust in hospitals. It’s one of the reasons behind the rise in the fatality rate.”
Besides, Nazrul said, he thinks now people are not getting proper treatment at hospitals as government authorities are not serious about ensuring necessary equipment and other things, including high-flow nasal cannula, ICU facilities and sufficient oxygen. “Overall, I think, a lethargic attitude of the government and people towards the deadly virus is contributing to the rise in the mortality rate.”
Prof Kanak Kanti Barua, Vice-Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said no one should say the corona infection has decreased based on daily sample tests of 10,000-12,000. “But we can say the death rate has increased as nearly 40 people on average have been dying every day for a few weeks.”
He said people’s apathy to the treatment at the hospitals and late admission may be the main reasons behind the rise in the fatality rate. “We’re observing that many people are coming to hospitals at the last stage or with serious lung infections. So, it becomes difficult for us to save such patients.”
The BSMMU VC said a good number of those patients dying from the corona infection have diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney, cancer, cardiac, respiratory and other underlying health problems. “People having comorbidities shouldn’t take much time to come to hospitals after they are tested positive for the virus. But they’re taking admission when their condition deteriorates sharply. Even, many corona patients are coming to hospitals with serious lung infections only because of not taking proper treatment at the early stage.”
He said there is a growing tendency among people to receive treatment at home and take medicine as per their relatives’ advice. “I think it's a dangerous practice. People are doing it for lack of awareness. I would like to advise people coming to hospitals after getting infected with the virus. Doctors will decide whether the patients need to take admission or not examining their condition and symptoms. Or else, we won’t be able to contain the fatality rate.”
President of Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad Dr Iqbal Arsenal said they are worried over the uptrend of corona mortality. “We’re contacting doctors and hospitals to know the reasons. The first reason is people are coming to hospitals very late. Many people having mild symptoms are receiving treatment at home but they don’t check the oxygen-saturation level, which can cause abrupt fall in its level and breathing problem and lung infections.”
He said the wrong treatment and abuse of medicine is another reason behind the growing mortality rate. “Everyone now knows the corona treatment protocol and takes medicine as per their whims. There’re also rumours that people can recover fast by taking some particular medicine or herbals and many people are taking those. Some people also take advice from doctors over the phone and stay at home. But all the corona-infected people don’t have the same type of symptoms and immune system. So, it’s a wrong practice to take medicine without proper examinations, diagnosis and doctors’ advice.”
Dr Iqbal said doctors also have an observation that corona is becoming more lethal now and quickly affecting people’s lungs and respiratory system, causing higher death. “Most patients are now coming to hospitals with lung problems. So, we think the virus is now becoming deadlier than in the past.”
He bemoaned that the Health Ministry now looks a bit relaxed in dealing with the corona situation. “The ministry is now little interested in procuring necessary equipment and medicine, including high-flow nasal cannula, for hospitals to treat critical corona patients. The ministry looks onfident that corona is going away in the near future, but it’s unlikely to happen.”
Dr Iqbal said corona is resurging in the countries where it eased earlier. “So, we must remain alert. We’ll have to make people aware of maintaining health hygiene and safety rules. We must encourage people to undergo tests and come to hospitals at the right time. Or else, we’ve to pay a heavy price in the days to come.”