Dengue dare | Page 2 | Daily News

Dengue dare

Lately, in the Sri Lanka media appeared a sundry of articles and reports about the menace of dengue and the fight against it. In the article “War against dengue” in the Daily News edition of July 24, it was reported that from the beginning of this month thousands of soldiers, airmen and sailors (maybe marines) have supported the Public Health Inspectors in a house-to-house campaign to identify mosquito breeding areas and take corrective measures. Mostly it happens in Colombo and some Western Province areas, where the inhabitants, due to a dense population, are exposed to a dengue danger.

I live in Kochchikade (Negombo) and, alas, I have never seen a single attempt to identify mosquito breeding places in my location- no officials of local authorities, supported by police and armed forces, have visited my or neighboring premises, although there were many people in the area affected by the dengue malady. Somebody spread the rumours that all households would be inspected on Wednesday, (July 12) and in case a mosquito breeding place would be found, the owners of the premises would be liable to pay SLR 50.000,000.

Apparently, it was a ruse or “fake news”, as no official turned up but, anyway, it had a positive effect, as everybody tried to clean their surroundings by making incriminate massive fires and burning all accumulated rubbish, plastic items included. In this endeavour, the house owners erroneously hoped to drive away mosquitoes away but it was a futile attempt, as the buzzing creatures after a while descended in numerous numbers upon them again.

Fogging device

A couple of days later, I was intrigued by a loud noise and plume of smoke that emanated from the road nearby. The cats and dogs, frightened by the noise, scurried to find a safe hiding place, the people hastened to close their doors and windows. I went outside the gate to see what was happening. The thundering sound grew louder and from the cloud of smoke, like in one of those Doomsday films (Apocalypse now), appeared a ghastly figure with a mask and a menacing looking fogging device.

The fumigator-exterminator (my own coinage) told me to go inside my house and close the door. I obeyed but later on I wanted to find out whether that fogging had any effect on the mosquito population and opened the door. After a half an hour or so, (around six o’clock p.m.) the first mosquitoes flew into the house and I managed to kill them with an electric mosquito swatter. Next morning, as I usually sleep with an open window under a mosquito net, I found and killed some 30 more of them.

I became curious about fogging and its effects on mosquitoes, human beings and fauna. I started my research on the Internet and found some interesting and relevant articles, features. Daily Mail in its article of September 22, 2016, wrote about fogging and its effects in India. It reported that fogging machines used by the municipal corporations in Delhi spray 95 litres of diesel mixed with insecticides in an hour.

The chemical used for fumigation is mostly malathion which can be hazardous for humans- especially for the vulnerable, young and elderly. It can cause short term breathing problems, headaches in healthy people and can have chronic long term effects. Dr. S.P. Byotra, senior consultant and chairman of medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said: “It has an adverse effect on those, who are asthmatic and allergic. Fumigation is no more effective but has a negative impact on human health.” World Health Organization (WHO) warns against needless fumigation.

It reiterates that anti-mosquito fogging is 95% diesel mixed with only 5% of chemicals, like pyrethrum, malathion and alphacypher.

Diesel is a Class-I cancer causing element. Fumigation is not a preventive measure but only a containment measure. It is a high-risk formula with only psychological effects- it makes people feel safer. There is data which suggests that mosquitoes have become resistant to the chemicals used in fumigation and may not die. Furthermore, fogging kills other insects that feed on mosquitoes.

Seek foreign help

Dengue has to be controlled at the larval stage. Former South Delhi mayor, Subhash Arya, said that “fogging is mostly done outside the houses, which can be effective only for some 5-10 minutes and then it gets mixed in the air and, hence, there will be no impact on the mosquitoes.” The doctors also warn about the serious health implications to humans in the pesticide drive.

It is commendable that Sri Lankan government decided to seek foreign help in fight against dengue and is ready to introduce a new method to reign in dengue menace by spreading bacteria which are harmful to mosquitoes. Many Sri Lankans, especially uneducated ones, entertain a belief that burning rubbish, including plastics, can deter mosquitoes.

This is an illusion and therefore, the media, governmental bodies, schools and other public institutions should educate the populace about the menace of burning plastic items in their gardens. This education should start at the school level so that the children could warn their parents about this danger and be able to tell- mummy, please, do not burn these plastic cups and bags, as they poison us. It is indisputably proven that burning plastics emits carcinogenic, toxic smoke and causes Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and cancer.

There are over a million people in Sri Lanka, who suffer from asthma. From my own experience, in the early morning hours I can hear the people after awakening sneezing and coughing, as they try to cleanse their lungs and sinuses, affected by smoke from their hearths and fires outside. The toxic elements after the rain penetrate into the ground-water and cause a great health hazard in long term, as many people use water from the tube and open wells. It seems that now, in the face of dengue menace, nearly everybody thinks that he/she has a right to burn toxic garbage, disregarding hazards to their own and other people’s health. Is it “a license to kill” anything and anybody?


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