Dengue out to cull our population

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2017-03-21

Every year we experience at least two dengue outbreaks. Both of which are accompanied by the monsoon rains. This year, sticking to its strict schedule has turned up again to cull our population.

Dengue cases are in record level this year during the year's first outbreak. During the first three months of this year 22,562 suspected dengue cases have been reported islandwide, while the most number of cases were reported in this current month of March where the disease reached an epidemic level. Approximately 41.52% of dengue cases were reported from the Western Province.

Last year, 2016, saw the most recorded number of cases being reported across the nation with 54,945 dengue fever cases, compared to 2015's 29,777. However, by January 2017, a record 1,311 dengue cases were reported. At this rate, 2017 might just surpass the record of last year in this epidemic.

The pattern of increasing number of dengue cases, correlated with the monsoonal rains (from May to August and November to January) has allowed the local health sector to come up with a battle plan against the disease. Accordingly, the Colombo Municipal Council's Health Department issued a notice to all hospitals and medical institutions in and around Colombo, advising them to be prepared for another dengue outbreak this month.

Minister of Health and Indigenous Medicine Rajitha Senaratne has announced a motion to increase the fine for facilitation of mosquito-breeding places in their environs up to
Rs 25,000.

Minister Senaratne had noted that the present laws should be amended to control the dengue fever spreading and decrease its incidence. More efficiently, he suggested making it a legal obligation to pay compensation to the immediate relatives of a dengue victim, by those who maintain dengue breeding sites in the area.

Extreme as it may sound, this is in fact, a rather plausible approach to creating awareness through stricter laws. Citizens who negligently maintain dengue breeding sites are currently being fined – but the fine is insignificant and therefore, can be ignored. There are many who do ignore the fine. However, once the fine system is reinforced and the fine increased, people will finally start noticing.

Similarly, the government should also take immediate steps to strengthen the dengue control programme in certain areas. Dengue, being an urban disease, is mainly contracted by citizens in city areas such as Colombo. Fumigating dengue breeding sites take place almost regularly in Colombo, but not so much outside of Colombo. Thus, measures should be taken to address this and strengthen the procedure.

Similarly, the Colombo Municipal Council has initiated a plan to identify potential dengue mosquito breeding sites in the city of Colombo. Under this Anti-Dengue Drive, red notices have already been issued to the owners of 623 residences following inspection by officials, earlier this week.

According to the Dengue Control Unit, so far 76 people have died due to dengue haemorrhagic fever this year. The Epidemiology Unit of the Health Ministry noted that during the last 12 months of the year 2016, 47,182 suspected dengue cases have been reported to the Epidemiology Unit from all over the island. Approximately 49.73% of dengue cases were reported from the Western Province.

The dengue outbreak is a recurring case and easy to predict. The most deadly animal in the world is the mosquito. It might seem impossible that something so miniscule can kill so many people, but it's true. According to the World Health Organization, mosquito bites result in the deaths of more than 1 million people every year – meaning that these tiny insects kill more humans than human murderers. The majority of these deaths are due to malaria, with dengue in the second position.
It is not just the authority's responsibility to prevent this insect from killing more humans. It is also our responsibility to protect ourselves as well as others.

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