and battle against it rage on
By Sachitra Mahendra and Asif Fuard
Even while the death toll from dengue keeps rising, top health officials
and politicians continue to express contradictory views over the
use of BTI -- a dengue controlling bacteria -- obtained from Cuba
or from other countries to fight the deadly epidemic.
the government is more or less decided about importing BTI from
Cuba, top health officials insist that public awareness on the need
to maintain an environment free from mosquito breeding sites is
a better option.
Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva said that BTI usage was not cost
effective while Science and Technology Minister Tissa Vitarana said
BTI was best used on mosquito breeding sites, although the committee
he chaired had earlier reported that the use of BTI was not practical.
Vitarana who had been to Cuba on several occasions had even cited
instances where BTI had been successfully used in curbing or eradicating
the dengue mosquito.
Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe, the Health ministry's chief epidemiologist
who was a member of the committee said they were still collecting
data on the use of BTI as a deterrent on the spread of the mosquito
and technology ministry sources said it was JVP general secretary
Tilvin Silva who had first suggested obtaining BTI from Cuba. Dr.
Pradeep Kariyawasam the Colombo Municipal Council's Chief Medical
officer said they are agreed on the use of BTI though at the same
time a concerted effort on a massive clean up each year was also
necessary to keep a close check on the dengue mosquito wreaking
should conduct a massive clean up during April and October each
year. The clean up in April could be linked with the festival season.
Unlike the heavy rains, the intermittent rains that fall during
this time of the year leave pockets of water which in turn become
fertile breeding grounds for the dengue mosquito", he said.
clean up efforts of the medical officials during March and April
this year was somewhat of a failure and a disappointment because
the people were preoccupied with elections.
Tissa Vitarana, a stalwart in the anti dengue campaign reiterates
the need to raise people's awareness and motivate them to destroy
all possible mosquito breeding places.
need not broadcast messages, like keeping the environment clean.
It won't make any sense. It's not so much the environment but mosquito
breeding places like open containers, bottles, coconut shells, plastic
vessels, tyres and gutters must be specifically targeted",
the Minister told The Sunday Times.
people most importantly need to be aware of are specific places.
They can examine these places which would not take them long, a
few minutes perhaps. It can be easily done over a weekend",
the Minister explained.
chances are that getting down BTI could make people neglect their
responsibilities of destroying breeding places and keeping the surroundings
clean, and also because people may become complacent expecting the
bacteria to do all the work. What bacteria can do is very little.
Destroying breeding places and not providing any, means quite a
lot. Cuba from where we are hoping to import the bacteria is a case
in point. Even Cuba did not depend on the mosquito destroying bacteria
alone. They had a grass roots level campaign. All Cubans took it
upon themselves as a responsibility. Although they were fined at
the beginning for negligence, changed attitudes saw no need for
it now", Ministry sources said.
has not reported any incidence of dengue in three years. The Cuban
BTI is said to live for about a month. Singapore authorities too
are said to spot fine anyone who failed to destroy dengue-breeding
the current epidemic, which is the worst in Sri Lanka 64 deaths
have been reported so far with some 9000 people, mainly children
affected by the disease and hospitals packed.
Minister Siripala de Silva said the government was considering spot
fines for those whose gardens or premises were providing breeding
places for dengue mosquitoes.
in the tale!
Health minister Nimal Siripala de Silva this week declared
that opposition politicians including the media were trying to blow
'out of proportion' the dengue issue.
de Silva told The Sunday Times that there was no need for the the
dengue issue to be magnified unnecessarily nor to make a mountain
out of a mole hill.
said that the standard of health in Sri Lanka was far better than
in the other Asian countries and when compared with India where
950 Dengue related deaths were reported in Sri Lanka only some 60
deaths had been reported so far.
said the government was doing its best to eradicate the dengue menace.
Minister de Silva said a solid waste system was one of the steps
being contemplated by the government to eradicate this disease.
said that a team of officials was going to Cuba for research on
this disease though he believed that the introduction of BTI was
not a cost effective method.
cooperation and awareness of the dangers of dengue will help prevent
the spread of this disease', the Minister said. He said legislation
was being prepared to impose spot fines on offenders who do not
keep their premises or gardens clean.
to a question as to how the government was going to fund the dengue
campaign, he said that temporarily it would use funds from the malaria
new committee is going to be appointed to look in to the dengue
problem with the expenditure amounting to nearly Rs. 50 million",
Minister de Silva said. A debate on the dengue menace was held in
parliament following a proposal by UNP parliamentarian Jayalath
Jayawardene who called on the government to take all necessary steps
to control this problem which had now become an epidemic and keeps
getting worse by the day.