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The National Dengue Control Unit of the Ministry of Health informed that dengue had reached epidemic proportions in the country and at present showed no signs of abating, highlighting the challenge before the authorities of arresting the said upward trend.
Community Specialist at the Unit, Dr. Priscilla Samaraweera noted that there was overcrowding in the hospitals owing to the sheer influx of new patients. Previously, only 1,000 cases were admitted per week. Currently, the figure for the same is 3,000. As of June 16, the island-wide figure is 62,000. The Western Province accounts for the most number of patients. “The number of dengue patients is increasing,” she added.
Although a state of national emergency and national disaster has not been declared in this regard, President Maithripala Sirisena has issued advice calling for the active involvement of all authorities in this regard. The bottom up process must have some top down supervision, she pointed out. The authorities are conducting fogging campaigns to eradicate infected mosquitoes (fumigation is only effective against the mosquitoes in the area being fogged at the time) and source reduction campaigns.

Dr. Samaraweera criticized members of the public for waiting on teams composed of personnel from the authorities to turn up at their doorsteps, instead of tending to, clearing and cleaning their immediate surrounding environments and vicinities, by removing, getting rid of and destroying anything that acts as a container, a vessel, a holder or a receptacle that collects clean water and allows such to stagnate in the open, thereby creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Such repositories like empty yoghurt cups, curd pots, flower pots and garbage (people however complain of non-collection) aren’t tied up in gurney bags, she explained, adding that leaks in sinks too weren’t fixed by the inhabitants of houses and members of households.

“Breeding places are everywhere. No matter how much advice regarding where mosquitoes breed, what times the mosquitoes are most active and how the mosquitoes and their larvae can be destroyed, is given, countless times, people don’t clean. We don’t know how else to convey this message and its fundamental importance. When we are small, we are taught how to brush our teeth, doing so later is our responsibility. One or two or only a few doing this is insufficient. Even if one’s plot of land is clean, if the neighbour’s area isn’t, one can still get dengue. Public cleaning campaigns such as shramadanas are of utmost importance. In asking people to clean the environment we are not asking them to do hefty tasks such as trimming tree branches, but a specific simple task of removing things where water gets collected. We all must get together as one nation and one people in doing this,” she further explained.

Meanwhile, using underutilized wards in hospitals, in particular ones where not many patients stay hospitalized overnight, and transferring patients who have got better to district hospitals such as the one in Thalangama, are measures that have been undertaken at present to tackle the present overcrowding (there not being enough beds to accommodate all the patients). Hospitals in Piliyandala, Wethara, Kalubowila, Homagama and Ragama are also being so utilized while the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Angoda is currently filled to the brim.

Ruwan Laknath Jayakody