‘Fever corners’ in hospitals as dengue cases soarView(s):
The Health Ministry has ordered all main hospitals to open up units termed ‘fever corners’ to manage the heavy influx of patients. Epidemiology Unit head, Dr. Paba Palihawadana told the Sunday Times that fever corners have been set up at the Colombo National Hospital, Colombo South Teaching Hospital (Kalubowila), the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH), Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital and Homagama Base Hospital.
“With the start of the monsoon season, there is an outbreak of fever; which could be dengue or other viral fever. The fever corner will be attached to the Outdoor Patients Department (OPD) and will identify fever patients and direct them to wards depending on their condition. The fever corners should have the facility where patients can get their blood tested within half an hour,” she said.
Dr. Palihawadane said although the Aedes aegypti mosquito’s (dengue mosquito’s) highest biting intensity is about two hours after sunrise and before sunset, there was a growing possibility of more mosquito bites during daytime. “We advise the use of mosquito netting over infant cribs or beds during daytime. Those living in mosquito prevalent areas should make sure to put up window screens to keep out mosquitoes and apply repellents if necessary. But continual cleaning and elimination of breeding sites is essential,” she said.
Discarded coconut shells, containers such as buckets, yogurt cups, bottles, barrels, tyres, blocked gutters, polythene coverings, construction sites, concrete slabs, broken down air-conditioners, bird baths, flower pots, plant saucers and water coolers are some of the common breeding spots in the Western Province, where 60 per cent of the 12,207 cases islandwide and 37 deaths were reported this year.
The Sunday Times learns that over 1,000 dengue patients are being treated in main hospitals in Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara Districts with hospitals such as the National Hospital, Colombo, Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital, Colombo South Teaching Hospital (Kalubowila) and Infectious Diseases Hospitals treating more than 100 dengue patients in each hospital. The hospitals are also flooded with fever patients.
Deaths have been reported recently from Colombo, Moratuwa, Kolonnawa, Borelesgamuwa and areas such as Batticaloa, Ratnapura and Kurunegala.
With growing public concern over the spread of dengue, the military has also extended its support in dengue control programmes in Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara and Puttalam Districts.
Army Media Spokesman, Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya said cleaning programmes would be conducted in Army camps and other areas in the Western Province.
The programme will be supervised by Major General U.A.B Medawela, Commander of the Security Force Headquarters- West.
“Army personnel will work with Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) to identify vulnerable areas and clean up high risk mosquito breeding places. We will not force ourselves on civil authorities, but will extend our support to local authorities when requested and if an emergency situation arises,” Brig Wanigasuriya said.
Dr. Palihawadana said fogging, spraying of larvicides into drains and large breeding sites were taking place within the Colombo city limits as well as in the Colombo District as a whole.
According to the Epidemiology Unit, 3,500 dengue cases were reported in May—the highest reported in recent months.Of the 12,207 cases reported from January to the first week of June, the highest number (4518) was reported from the Colombo District followed by 2301 from the Gampaha District.The other districts where the mosquito-borne disease is widespread are Kalutara, Ratnapura, Kegalle, Kurunegala and Batticaloa.
Public Health Inspectors’ Union Secretary, Senerath Bandara said during the first six months of this year public health inspectors island-wide had inspected 419,946 places and identified 43,525 mosquito breeding sites. PHIs have also taken legal action against 5,631 people.He said with the resurgence of dengue there was a need to have more PHIs involved only in dengue prevention activities.
“At present the ratio is one PHI to 25,000 people. This should come down to at least one for 8,000. People complain that PHIs don’t do regular inspections of areas. This is because these officers have to handle food raids and surveillance, immunisation programmes, test water supplies/bottled water, inspect construction sites, garbage disposal sites, file action and appear in courts, take part in awareness programmes and school health services among other duties,” Mr. Bandara said.
Under the Mosquito Breeding Prevention Act, any person owning or occupying a place that breeds mosquitoes can be fined up to Rs.25, 000.
Under the dengue control statute that was introduced to the Public Nuisance Ordinance of the Western Province health inspectors can impose spot fines ranging from Rs.500 to Rs. 3, 000 in the districts of Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara if a property owner had neglected mosquito breeding sites.
Health officers also can take action under the quarantine and prevention of diseases ordinance.