Don’t ignore dengue, rat fever threats | Daily News

Don’t ignore dengue, rat fever threats

With the onset of monsoonal rains, the danger of another rapid spread of dengue is a very real possibility and all precautions need to be taken by the health authorities to prevent or at least control the epidemic to manageable proportions when it eventually raises its head.

While the entire nation is focused on the Coronavirus and the response of the Government to alleviate the condition has won praise from all quarters, another lurking health threat may well descend upon us, which, if no timely action is taken, is bound to snowball into another full blown health crisis even greater than the pandemic in our mist.

While the Coronavirus has claimed only 11 lives in the four months since its advent in this country dengue is known to take a heavy toll of lives among those affected and the sooner emergency measures are put in place to confront the threat the easier it will be to come out of the crisis. Rat fever too has claimed 10 lives and hundreds more have been infected.

For this to happen prompt measures are called for to identify and destroy the dengue mosquito vector that is lurking in our midst. It is in the face of this imminent health threat that unfortunately the Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) who are the first responders in any health crisis have chosen to go on a work stoppage over an alleged dilution of their powers through a gazette notification to implement health guidelines related to Coronavirus.

It is regrettable, to say the least, that the PHIs who had taken umbrage at not being allowed to exercise their full powers to fight the Coronavirus is abandoning their responsibilities in the wake of a mounting dengue threat which makes the term Public Health Inspector a misnomer.They should even at this stage call off their strike and attended to their duties.

For weeks there have been warnings from the health authorities of a rapid spread of dengue. Some weeks ago the National Dengue Prevention Unit raised the alarm that the dengue mosquito larvae density had reached a monstrous 80 percent in schools, Government departments and construction sites which have all been lying abandoned for over three months during the lockdown and have naturally provided breeding grounds for dengue.

No doubt, the health sector had been stretched to beyond its full capacity to cope with the Coronavirus. But this is no reason to bypass an equally alarming crisis which if allowed to get out of hand could make the Coronavirus pale into insignificance. The Health Ministry should get cracking without delay in devising emergency measures to combat a looming dengue epidemic with the same commitment and resourcefulness its staff displayed in fighting the Coronavirus.

The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) can also play an important role. Mayor Rosy Senanayake has already praised President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the efficiency he showed in combating the Coronavirus. She now has the opportunity to complement the President’s success in dealing with the pandemic by making her own contribution in tackling dengue in the city, for it is Colombo which is most vulnerable to epidemics, given its vast population and profusion of buildings and structures that provide a ready invitation to the dengue mosquito.The CMC should embark on a massive cleanup campaign in the City and commence fumigation of all suspected spots thought to be habouring the dengue mosquito. All hotels and eating houses in congested areas should be subjected to inspection with special emphasis laid on the hygienic conditions in the preparation of meals and health standards of their employees.

The authorities should take prompt action to ‘smoke out’ all abandoned structures and untenanted buildings while steps should be taken to clean up all polluted canals and waterways dotting Colombo’s landscape.

With schools set to reopen after the long enforced vacation special attention should be paid to school buildings to make sure they are dengue free before the children could move in. While the health guidelines with respect to the Coronavirus are strictly enforced we must ensure that dangers posed by other diseases in our midst are not lost sight of and appropriate steps taken to counter these threats.

Thankfully, the Coronavirus has opened the eyes of citizens to think anew regarding the precautions to be taken to protect themselves health wise, particularly the health guidelines to be adhered to in their interactions with society. It has also brought about a new outlook in the people and had forced them out of their set routines and behavioral patterns, hitherto taken for granted, all of which cumulatively augur well for healthy lifestyles which in turn could lead to a healthy nation.


Hopefully, these practices will come to stay leading to the control of many other diseases such as dengue in the future. In that respect the Coronavirus pandemic will also have taught us many lessons leading to a healthy outlook for all.

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