Dhaka, Bangladesh – Every time Mosammat Mayna enters the dengue ward at Mugda Hospital in Bangladesh’s capital, sorrow and fear grip her mind.
The 23-year-old has been working as a cleaner in the hospital for just about a month, and the only reason she got the job was because her sister, Maria Ratna, died of dengue last month while doing her duty as a cleaner in the same ward.
“My sister worked relentlessly for months during this year’s dengue outbreak and eventually caught the disease. After she died, the hospital authority offered me her job,” Mayna told Al Jazeera.
“Our family was devastated by Ratna’s death, but since I was out of work, I took the offer despite being very scared.”
Bangladesh is undergoing its worst-ever dengue outbreak in history, with hospitals packed to the brim and the death toll rising. Last Wednesday, the country recorded 24 deaths – the highest in a day – from the mosquito-borne disease.
While the disease does not spread from person to person, a mosquito that bites an infected patient then becomes a carrier, and can transmit dengue to others it bites. That makes places with a high concentration of dengue patients — such as the hospital where Mayna works — more dangerous for those who are not yet infected.
Health experts are alarmed as dengue usually subsides in the South Asian region when the annual monsoon rains stop by the end of September.
As of Monday, at least 1,549 people – including 156 children, from newborns up to those aged 15 – have died of the disease in Bangladesh, which has recorded a total of 301,255 dengue cases this year, according to the government’s Directorate General of Health Service (DGHS).
The record deaths are roughly five times last year’s tally of 281 fatalities – the highest in a single year in Bangladesh’s history – until the outbreak this year. The previous highest number of cases in one year – 1,01,354 – was reported back in 2019.