Dengue: People’s woes and lasting remedies

Who is Responsible for Dengue? – W. A. J. Francis, Mount Lavinia

 The press is full of news items, editorials and letters on the menace of dengue and the number of fatalities caused by it. The ministries, local government bodies and the political high-ups are ready to prosecute the public but as with many other ills, these are acts of the proverbial people living in glass houses throwing stones.

I am a resident of a road leading off Galle Road close to the CTB Depot in Ratmalana. The municipal area concerned (Municipal Council of Dehiwela-Mt. Lavinia) has been declared a “dengue disaster zone” and they in turn are blaming the citizenry.

On the other hand, not too long ago a political big wig took the law into his hands in meting out punishment “Kekille style” in what can only be described as the act of a political lackey trying to impress his masters giving an impression to the world at large that Sri Lanka is fast becoming a “banana republic”.

My attempt here is not to discuss politicians , but try to bring to the attention of the powers that be the urgent need for action. Not just some action but action directed at the right source.

Let me illustrate a few points here, based on what I observe day in and day out.

Storm water drains not cleaned of the accumulated sludge thus impeding the flow of water and becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes. But several rate payers were prosecuted when a few water sources were found in several home gardens.

Permanent, semi-permanent and temporary shops – virtual shacks – built over the drains at the top end of the road, obstruct the cleaning of such drains and prevent the smooth flow of storm water. But rate payers will be prosecuted if they construct any unauthorised building in their private gardens that obstructs the flow of water.

Approving or allowing such shops to be built with no thought of the need for sanitary facilities of the shopkeepers who have to be in those from morning till evening (one’s imagination need not be taxed too much to think how these shop owners ease themselves). But will any rate payer be allowed to build a house with no toilet facilities?

There are house owners who have created drains that discharge their kitchen and bath waste water on to the road surface. This is because there is no storm water drain on one side of the road but this should not be an excuse for allowing some residents to break municipal laws on health and sanitation. Not only does this cause damage to the road but also create perfect spots for water to collect when it rains and also every time waste water is discharged by these house owners, it increases further, the chances for breeding mosquitoes.

How the PHIs dare to come and tell householders to take action to remove mosquito breeding places beats me when they ignore the more obvious breeding grounds such as above.

This is why the public has a right to ask the powers that be whether they are taking the right action aimed at the right people and attacking the root cause.

Response by GMOA Asst Sec. Dr. Upul Gunasekara

Preventive health system has to take most part of the burden. For every 60,000 persons there is an MOH (Medical Officer of Health) area which is a unit in charge of the medical officers and other staff for preventive action. They can’t do it alone. They seek the help of the municipal council or local government authority. We got to know that areas close to the National hospital were breeding dengue for instances like that the staff and doctors of the hospital should facilitate action with the PHI (Public Health Inspector) and MOH to get together and clean it. What I feel is that most of the people are educated on dengue prevention with the presidential task force everyone knows but they don’t act on that knowledge. One hour inspection cannot find areas and the epidemiology unit cannot do everything. Investigations into dengue have found that everyday if you spend an hour looking to destroy mosquito breeding areas in your home and work place that will go a long way. It can be your kid so you have to take the responsibility. Spend one hour per week to clean your area. It is the most

Got away with a Bribe – An Anonymous Industrialist

A few days ago officers from the Moratuwa Municipality came to our factory.

They claimed that our drains were dirty and were breeding dengue mosquitoes. (There were a few puddles of dirty stagnant water. Dengue mosquitoes don’t breed in such an environment).

However, they said that we will be charged in court and then explained that the fine will be Rs.20,000. We knew it was no point going to courts and pleading not guilty. The case would have gone for some time and the lawyer’s fees would have been as much or if not more than the fine.

We offered a bribe of Rs.3000. He wanted Rs.8,000. Finally they compromised on Rs.5000 .We paid. He left leaving s signed document that our factory was dengue-free. That is the way to get rid of dengue mosquitoes in the country.

Response by Government Medical Officers’ Association Asst Sec. Dr. Upul Gunasekara

They should have not asked for a bribe. We know that some institutions are corrupt. You can insist that they come with a PHI if they decide to fine such a big amount. The thing is that they are more educated about the areas in which mosquitoes breed and they know better. You should never pay a bribe since that will lead to more incidents and cases as such. They will do the same to innocent people too. Always insist on an MOH (Medical Officer of Health) every municipal council has an MOH office, but if there are special cases as this, they can be insisted on before paying the fine or taking it to courts.

Dengue on the rise – so what are we going to do? –  Dr. Mrs. Mareena Thaha Reffai

Isn’t it amazing how a tiny little organism can hold the mankind practically hostage? The minute little virus which we cannot even see with our naked eyes causing havoc amidst us.  Even the  mosquitoes – being so small and so powerful. It is said that mosquito is the creature through which most number of deaths are caused.

Does it know  we are powerless against them? Not really. This shows how stupid a person can be knowing very well the way to overcome them, he does not act. He is either too lazy, or too arrogant to take the correct, simple measures – rather goes all the way out to make the most detour way to eradicate this simple menace, and falls flat on the face. The trial with Cuban bacteria is a point to ponder. Do we need bacteria to conquer the simple bacteria from our back yard? Not really. All we need is common sense.

All we need is a national education on how to prevent them breeding. This has to be made a priority for everyone, homes, offices, ministries and common man, but especially the house wives, and a focal point of concern for a length of time until we altogether eradicate. This is a nation which conquered the deadly small pox and cholera, so why not lesser lethal dengue?

All it needs is a proper planning and nonstop practice of what it will take to eradicate the menace. For which we need a dedicated team with undeviating mission unadulterated by politics or greed.

Yes, we can easily eradicate this problem if only we set our hearts at it. Why aren’t we doing it?

Response by GMOA Asst Sec. Dr. Upul Gunasekara

The death toll by dengue has come down in the past few years due to the advanced and improved dengue treatment. But the number of people who get infected by dengue has risen. We as doctors try to do our best to cure the patients but sadly the majority of deaths due to dengue are of children. So we have changed the way we cure and treat patients when we acquire a lot of research and opinion from countries combating dengue. There is a marked improvement in the tertiary dengue treatment. But there are  30,000 con doctors in the country who are contributing to the death toll. If you are giving wrong advice and misdiagnosing that will cost your life or death.

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