DHAKA: Five-year-old Mohammad Ahnaf lies in a makeshift bed in the balcony of a major hospital in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, fighting for his life as dengue fever ravages his little body.

But his mother Shimul Akhter knows he is one of the lucky ones as Bangladesh grapples with its worst-ever outbreak of the viral fever – 23 have died and many cannot get access to medical help at all. Since January, almost 30,000 people have been hospitalized with the disease nationwide, and in the past week some 2,000 patients a day have been admitted to hospitals. “The situation is like an epidemic. But no-one is admitting it,” one expert, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP adding the real number of those with dengue was likely to be several times higher than official figures, which are based on limited data.

Panic is setting in. Such is the terror of those with symptoms that medical staff have been attacked as they try to stretch the meagre resources around and in some cases armed guards have been called in for protection. Facilities are struggling to cope with the influx – mattresses line every inch of spare floor extending beyond wards into corridors and balconies.

Dengue, which causes flu-like symptoms, can be deadly if it develops into a hemorrhagic fever. There is no vaccine or any specific medicine to treat dengue, according to the World Health Organization. Authorities are worried the situation is set to worsen. With the upcoming Eid al-Adha holidays, the fever could spread to remote villages as tens of millions of people head back to rural areas to celebrate the Muslim festival. At Suhrawardi Medical College Hospital in central Dhaka where Ahnaf has been admitted, all the wards are full of dengue patients. — AFP