Sting of spot fines to fight dengue

By Nadia Fazlulhaq

The Health Ministry is hoping to implement spot fines and other recommendations made by two Cuban epidemiologists who were in Sri Lanka to advise the government on how to combat the dengue epidemic, a senior official said yesterday.

The two Cuban experts on the Bti process to combat dengue have also recommended a ban on roof gutters which breed mosquitoes. Chief Cuban Epidemiologist Dr. Aramis Martinez and Asst. Epidemiologist Dr. S. Yalina have spotlighted several shortcomings which led to the dengue epidemic. So far this year, 245 people have died and some 24,620 afflicted by dengue-- a deadly increase from the 85 deaths and 6,556 cases reported during the whole of last year.

“One of the main recommendations was to introduce spot fines. The Cuban experts pointed out that the present law enforcing system takes time to punish offenders,” a Health Ministry official said. He said Ministry officials would hold talks with the Attorney General to introduce provisions for spot fines in the mosquito breeding prevention laws.

He said the Cuban experts had also recommended ways of streamlining the waste disposal system and criticized the present system which left garbage on the road. Lack of inter-sectoral collaboration and community participation was also spotlighted by the experts.

“There should be an inter-sectoral collaboration among local governments, education, health and environmental sectors in preventing the disease. According to them coordination among many sectors is lacking in our country. Lack of public interest when it comes to keeping the immediate environment clean was also highlighted by the experts,” he said.

Health officials are also to discuss with town planners and the Urban Development Ministry suitable alternatives before imposing a ban on gutters.

The Cuban experts also recommended the strengthening of the existing entomological surveillance and to introduce mobile data systems. Another recommendation is to improve diagnostic facilities especially in hospitals.

The Cuban experts were in the country for about one month in conduct feasibility studies in Colombo, Gampaha, Kandy and Hambantota districts on the use of Bti (Bacillus thuringienis israelensis), a group of bacteria used as biological control agents at larvae stages of certain mosquitoes.

The ministry is to buy Bti after obtaining approval from Parliament. The cost is estimated to be about one billion rupees.

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