Goa has been able to contain malaria to a large extent, but the rising number of dengue cases is causing concern among people. The state has recorded around 100 cases of dengue since January this year and the number is likely to go up. There were a number of dengue cases in Priol in the Ponda taluka. Mormugao recorded 30-odd cases in February this year. At least 11 dengue cases have been reported in the Sattari taluka and a few cases in the Bandora and Marcaim villages of the Ponda taluka. These are official figures and there is possibility of other dengue cases going undetected. Healthcare administrators are waiting for reports of the blood samples sent to the Goa Medical College and Hospital for testing for dengue. Though no dengue-related deaths have been reported so far, healthcare officials need to step up vigilance throughout the state and not just focus their attention on the areas where cases have tested positive.
The health department has taken up precautionary measures to check the spread of dengue and other diseases during the monsoon season. The measures include prevention of water accumulation in discarded utensils, bottles and motor tyres and coconut shells. People have been told not to release waste water into gutters and drains so as to prevent breeding of mosquitoes. In Priol, health officials issued notices to around 230 villagers, directing them to keep their surroundings clean. Some villagers ignored the warning by the health officials and continued to release waste in the drains, forcing the health officials and the village panchayat to issue a warning that if they did not stop releasing waste they would ask the government to disconnect the water and power supplies to their houses. A similar no-nonsense approach has to be adopted by the health officials and the panchayat or municipality in other parts of the state to prevent breeding of mosquitoes and contain diseases. This should be done even in places where neither of the mosquito-borne diseases has been reported. The government should also send directives to the local bodies to ensure that water and waste accumulation is not allowed.
Dengue is caused by four types of viruses spread by mosquitoes that thrive in and around households. Every family should take its own steps to prevent mosquito breeding. As there is no vaccine to prevent human infection by any of the four viruses, the best precaution the people could take is to keep mosquitoes away. Personal protection and environmental management of mosquitoes are important in preventing this illness. There is need to prevent access of mosquitoes to an infected person with a fever and protect oneself from mosquito bites at all times in dengue areas. As there is possibility of mosquitoes breeding in any part of the village, town or a city, communities could join hands in clearing all the vulnerable sites and objects where there is possibility of water accumulation. The officials of the local bodies need to play their role effectively and ensure that their employees carry out their duties diligently, particularly relating to allowing free flow of water in the drains and nullahs.
As a part of the nationwide drive, the state had started a drive under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India Mission four years ago to keep human surroundings clean, but the campaign has lost steam. The state government took some policy measures, released funds for a variety of projects, but what showed on the ground was much lesser than the talk and the propaganda. Politicians did their photo-ops on the drive, but the government departments and agencies and local bodies such as the municipalities and panchayats were never really motivated and nor were the citizens. People still continue to throw the waste generated in their houses on road edges, in open spaces and in drains, causing waste and water accumulation. A more intensive effort has to be undertaken to make the citizens work as stakeholders in the drive. A drive to create awareness among the parents about educating children on the road safety and wearing of helmets and strict enforcement of law has succeeded to a large extent with more people now seen wearing helmets than before. A similar approach could be adopted to engage school children in cleanliness drive and creating awareness through them among their parents. Those found littering public places, including drains, should be punished in accordance with the law. The authorities need to not only create public awareness but also enforce laws strictly to prevent outbreak of diseases as a lot of public money is spent on control and treatment of diseases.