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How You Can Do Your Part To Prevent Dengue From Spreading

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Pabodha Hettige

Pabodha Hettige

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As the numbers of dengue victims are on an islandwide rise in the first half of 2016, particularly in the Western Province, the public attitude towards prevention seems to have hardly changed.  It’s no secret that the inconsiderate actions towards the environment have pushed the nation towards the critical point where dengue has become a pandemonium. Pleas to keep the environment clean have largely fallen on deaf ears and the blame is put on municipalities by those who expect the presence of public health workers at the doorsteps for vector controlling. It’s timely to realise that effective combating needs increased citizen cooperation.

Data sourced from website of the Epidemiology Unit. Statistics displayed are as at July 19, 2016.

Data sourced from website of the Epidemiology Unit. Statistics displayed are as at July 19, 2016.

The disease can be fatal and is spread by the bite of two species of mosquitoes ‒ Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.  It’s now observed that the dengue mosquito is active around the clock and the symptoms of the disease appear within few days of being bitten. The onset of high fever, severe joint and muscle pains, headaches, skin rashes, and nausea are the most common symptoms, which ought to immediately signal that immediate medical attention is required.

Prevention

The dengue virus is carried by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos. Image credit: James Gathany/CDC

The dengue virus is carried by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos. Image credit: James Gathany/CDC

There is no drug or vaccination to kill the virus while inside the human body, except the naturally developed antibodies. Hence, control entirely depends on containing the breeding of the culprit mosquito.

Legal Action

Legal measures are well in place to combat the spread of disease. It should be noted that failure to keep the environment clean can drag you into legal battles where fines can be imposed and prison sentences can be awarded. Under the Prevention of the Mosquito Breeding Act No. 11 of 2007, Public Health Inspectors have the authority to identify possible breeding grounds and initiate action against the offending owners or occupiers. Initially, a week’s notice will be given to the owner of the identified breeding ground. Failure to mitigate the crisis will result in a fine of Rs. 25,000 and if caught a second time, the offender can be produced in courts and fined Rs. 50,000, coupled with a prison sentence.

Five Simple Steps To Combat Dengue

Be vigilant - your own backyard could be a breeding spot for dengue mosquitos; do your duty to ensure that it isn't. Roar.lk/Minaali Haputantri

Be vigilant – your own backyard could be a breeding spot for dengue mosquitos; do your duty to ensure that it isn’t. Roar.lk/Minaali Haputantri

Prevention is better than cure and it can be done at a zero cost. Consider it a part of your social responsibility and save yourself from shocking hospital bills, a great amount of grief, and expensive lawsuits.

1. Destroy places where the mosquito lays (or could lay) her eggs

Look for artificial containers that hold water in and around the home, blocked roof gutters which retain water, gully traps, and unattended flower pots. Turn over empty pails and buckets, so that they do not collect excess water. Ensure that plastic sheets, canvas, or tarpaulin used for weather protection in open areas are properly drained. Periodic cleaning and draining is vital for larval control.

2. Develop healthy garbage disposal methods

Coconut husks/shells and plastic cups or bottles left lying around outdoors could collect rainwater and turn into a potential mosquito breeding ground. Image credit: Roar.lk/Minaali Haputantri

Coconut husks/shells and plastic cups or bottles left lying around outdoors could collect rainwater and turn into a potential mosquito breeding ground. Image credit: Roar.lk/Minaali Haputantri

Proper waste management is the key to prevention. With the start of monsoons, the threat is imminent. Clear household garbage every day by disposing of it in refuse bins which are covered properly. If you have no disposal mechanism, pack the waste properly and leave the rest for the Municipal Council collectors. Environmental hygiene will most certainly relieve you from dengue terror.

3. Use repellents and protective garments

Apply mosquito repellents on all exposed areas, during the day as well as at night, on a regular basis, to avoid being bitten. They keep mosquitoes at bay but consult your doctor before you use one in case of health risks. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long trousers etc. may also be effective to some extent.

4. Use guppy as a combat tool

Guppy fish can be used to keep mosquito breeding at bay. Image courtesy pets4homes.co.uk

Guppy fish can be used to keep mosquito breeding at bay. Image courtesy pets4homes.co.uk

If you have ponds or any other water retention sources, use guppy fish as a Larvae-eating counter force to combat the spread of dengue. Research has shown that guppies do not harm the water quality, and are therefore a great alternative to chemicals.

5. Help increase awareness

Do your bit in educating society to keep surroundings clean. Educational initiatives encourage the public to actively embark on source reduction. Communities that are keen on making behavioural changes are the most effective in controlling dengue. A cleaner environment will ensure good health for you, and for others too.

As the news reports tell us every week, dengue is claiming ‒ and not for the first time ‒ the health and lives of many, and prevention should undoubtedly come as both individual and collective actions. Hence, it’s time to make the much needed attitudinal change, and implement the necessary prevention measures, even in the smallest way you can.  

Featured image credit: Roar.lk/Minaali Haputantri

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