Imported larvicide: From saviour to menace

Public indifferent towards cleaning environment say health officials; 5 die of dengue this month

‘Bti’ (Bacillus Thuringiensis Israelensis), a bio-larvicide, used to kill mosquito larvae, brought into the country two years ago, as a rescuer from the deadly dengue mosquito, has now turned into a menace, especially to ground level health officers.

Young patients at the dengue ward in Negombo Hospital, Gampaha District. Pic. by W. Hubert Fernando

They complain that, not only its use has been ineffective to date, but people, instead of destroying mosquito breeding sites, are depending more and more on the larvicide, which is active only for a few days

Adding to that, the Health Ministry is purchasing and distributing stocks of small bottles of this larvicide to local health authorities, for public health inspectors (PHIs) to distribute to the public.

In 2010, Government spent Rs 35 million for the purchase of Cuban bacteria, which was also purchased from local manufacturers. “Though we instruct them to clean their environments and spray larvicide only in open and approachable places, they use it in gutters and small containers, and do not clean their surrounding environments,” complained a PHI, while on a raid in the Gampaha district.

He said that Bti has not been successful, and the only sure method is regular cleaning and destroying of breeding sites. The raid was a part of the dengue eradication programme organised in the district. Military personnel were seen using syringes to collect mosquito larvae in vials.

The Sunday Times team also observed Bti bacteria bottles being distributed to the public by PHIs.
The Health Ministry’s Dengue Control Unit Director Dr. R. Batuwantudawe said larvicide was distributed to residents to be used in dump yards, concrete slabs and empty ponds.

Dengue claimed 185 lives, while 28,137 suspected dengue cases were reported in 2011. For the first 13 days of this year five persons have died of Dengue fever, and 674 cases have been reported.

People are depending more and more on ‘Bti’ PHIs on an inspection tour in Kelaniya
yesterday, collect mosquito larvae from a home garden. Pix by Indika Handuwala
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