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Overpowering Aedes

Govt, local bodies and people must prevent breeding of dengue mosquito

Alarmed by four deaths from dengue in the state so far since January this year, compared to just one death last year, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has blamed lack of a coordinated approach to fight the disease. Between January and September this year, the state recorded 1,468 suspected cases of dengue as compared to 1,630 last year during the same period. The number of confirmed cases of dengue last year was 272; this year the figure has been reached by September end. Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has suggested to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to constitute a committee to control dengue for effective coordination. Rane wants the committee to be headed by the Chief Secretary with the health secretary, the panchayat secretary and the urban development secretary as the members. It is sad to see that the government has found coordination amiss after four deaths from dengue. It is sadder to note that the government had no idea that all these years the panchayats and civic bodies were not doing their job of taking measures to prevent growth of dengue mosquitoes. Nobody in the government or local bodies was keeping an eye on how much care was being taken to shut the breeding grounds of dengue mosquitoes.

They have woken up after the monsoon is over, when the breeding of mosquitoes is highest! Still, the idea of setting up a committee to coordinate and monitor the measures taken to control the disease must be pursued. Dengue remains a serious health risk. Preventive measures are extremely necessary to contain its incidence. The urban areas have been most affected by dengue, with Margao reporting the highest number of suspected dengue cases at 315, followed by Vasco at 134 and Panaji at 74. As the mosquitoes called Aedes which cause dengue can breed in fresh water (with a volume no more than of tea spoon) the health department, the local bodies and the people have to work together to prevent their breeding. The fight should be not spasmodic and episodic. The government hospitals and health centres alone cannot fight dengue. The panchayats and municipal bodies have to join the war too. Fogging has to be done regularly. Awareness campaign must go on relentlessly. People must be persuaded to stop allowing accumulation of water in flower pots and other places. The war against vector borne diseases, such as dengue and malaria, cannot be won by acting after the outbreak. Elimination of breeding grounds of mosquitoes alone can eradicate the scourge.

People must know that the female Aedes mosquito, which causes dengue, lays eggs on the walls of water-filled containers. The eggs can survive for months and hatch when submerged in water. A few mosquitoes per household can produce enough number of mosquitoes that can lead to severe dengue outbreaks. These mosquitoes do not lay eggs in ditches and drains. The health department and local bodies should clean the surroundings of houses. People should also allow no breeding places to save themselves. The best defence against vector borne diseases is making our homes and surroundings as inhospitable to female mosquitoes for breeding. This requires participation of all.

Dengue is the world’s fastest growing vector-borne disease. The reasons are poor waste disposal, inadequate housing, deforestation, poorly designed irrigation and water systems and loss of biodiversity. As female Aedes mosquitoes breed in clean water, especially in serene surroundings such as residential complexes and bungalows and villas, the health department and local bodies must make it obligatory on the part of the presidents and secretaries of the societies managing the affairs of residential complexes to make their members remove any scope for breeding of dengue mosquitoes. People’s awareness about dengue is very poor. They think dengue mosquitoes grow only in cesspools and puddles in public spaces. People’s awareness of symptoms of dengue is also low. Goa has a very good health infrastructure, with health centres reaching out near and far, where anyone having the symptoms of dengue, such as fever, headache, bodyache and chill should go immediately for a blood test. Early detection can save lives. The health department and local bodies have to raise public awareness about prevention, detection and cure of dengue in order to win the war against it.   

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