Another dengue epidemic in Colombo
Colombo city is experiencing another outbreak of deadly dengue fever with four deaths — three of them children below 5 — and another 376 victims last month while the Colombo district recorded 1091 cases. The Colombo Municipality’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam, told the Sunday Times this was a 30 per cent increase compared to January last year.
Last year, 757 dengue cases were reported in the Colombo district which has a large population visiting the area from the outstations. Among the areas where a high number of dengue patients were reported were Mattakkuliya, Narahenpita, Thimbirigasyaya, Kirulapone, Wellawatte, Borella, Cinnamon Gardens and Kompanna Veediya. He said two thirds of the dengue victims were below the age of 20 and, of them, a majority were children below the age of five. Three of the four deaths reported in the city were also of children below five.
He said the main reason for this was the large number of schools in Colombo city. There were 150 schools in the municipal council limits. Dr. Kariyawasam said he suspected that a change in the virus may also have contributed to the epidemic. “We have a higher number of tourists coming into the country. They may have brought in a different sub type of the virus,” he said. However Dr. Kariyawasam said they were yet to do a full research to confirm this.
He said among main breeding grounds for dengue were large scale construction sites in the city. He said at present there were 109 construction sites which were ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. “Lack of proper sanitation in the surroundings aggravates the situation. We have only 100 staff members to conduct inspections. This is not enough in such a crisis situation.”
Dr. Kariyawasam also said most Colombo city residents did not adhere to requests by the authorities to keep their premises clean. “Earlier we had a programme where school children, cleaned up school premises and also went out to inspect the surrounding areas. But the education authorities are refusing to release the children for this now,” he said. The Municipality has organised a walk next Saturday to raise awareness on dengue prevention.Meanwhile, a consultant attached to the Epidemiology Unit of the Health Ministry said 50 per cent of schools in the Colombo district had mosquito breeding spaces and one of the reasons was that most schools had not been cleaned during the December holiday season.
He said that in the Colombo district about 20 per cent of the households were found to have breeding grounds for mosquitoes.