2009: Dengue mosquito has its way

310 deaths, 32,442 cases this year; coming year could be worse, warns official
By Nadia Fazlulhaq

Dengue has claimed 310 lives so far this year, with the total number of cases reported being a staggering 32,442, making 2009 the worst year in recent history, a senior health official said.
Warning that the situation could take a turn for the worse, the Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Unit Chief Dr. Paba Palihawadane called for coordinated action by all relevant authorities.

She identified the lack of coordination among different bodies, poor garbage disposal and the absence of civic consciousness or individual responsibility as the three main factors that had foiled efforts aimed at controlling the spread of dengue.

Fumigation in progress in Dambulla town, but experts say it is not the answer

“Prevention of disease is not the responsibility solely of the Health Ministry. Other ministries such as the Ministries of Local Government, Environment and Education have to join hands with the Health Ministry. But unfortunately, we do not see this happening,” she said.

Dr. Palihawadane said proper garbage disposal was not taking place in many urbanized areas and this has also contributed to the increase in dengue cases.

Statistics show that Gampaha was the worst affected district with 60 dengue deaths, followed by Kandy with 46, Colombo 37, Kegalle 25, Hambantota 19, Kurunegala 18 and Vavuniya 17.

Colombos Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam said around 500 cases were reported within the city limits last year but this year 1,358 cases had been reported so far with 13 deaths.

According to him, the lack of interest shown by people to keep their surroundings clean was the one of the main contributory factors for the spread of this deadly disease.

“Most people are not interested in their surroundings. They only think of whitewashing their houses but they don’t remember that gutters, water tanks and water collecting places should also be cleaned regularly,” he said.

Dr. Kariyawasam said it was pathetic to note that the area surrounding the National Hospital had become an ideal breeding spot for mosquitoes. He said records showed that several patients and nurses from the National Hospital also had contracted dengue.

The Chief Medical Officer said the Council would buy 15 fogging machines soon but he believed fogging alone could not solve the problem. “Fogging doesn’t help to reduce the breeding of mosquitoes. It only kills the adult mosquitoes,” he said.

Gampaha District Health Director Dr. L. Padmasiri said the main cause for the spread of dengue in his area was the poor garbage disposal practice. “People throw polythene bags and plastic containers all over. Some people in private vehicles dump their garbage on the roads. This needs to be stopped,” he said.

His statistics show Kelaniya recorded 501 dengue cases, Wattala 440, Attanagalle 490, Meerigama 396 and Biyagama 311. Kandy District’s Health Director Dr. S. Gamage said the municipal limits, Gangawatakorale and Wattegama were the high-risk areas and the present weather conditions would make the situation worse.

He said last year only six people died of dengue in the Kandy District but this year the death toll had increased to 46. A Health Ministry official, meanwhile, said the government would buy the Bti bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) commonly used as a bioinsecticide to destroy mosquito larvae early next year to control the rapid spreading of the mosquito-borne diseases.

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