Heed this warning | Daily News

Heed this warning

The monsoonal rains has brought with it once again the threat of dengue and other diseases and epidemics which health experts warn could grow into serious proportions if adequate precautions are not taken and warnings go unheeded.We say this because a nation that only a few months ago was in the throes of a deadly pandemic is already letting their collective guard down as regards the health guidelines put in place. Face masks are gradually dispensed with and the distance rule appears to be a thing of the past with the reopening of offices and commercial establishments. Ditto for hotels, eateries and kiosks which are now serving meals indoors contrary to the guidelines that only “take aways” are permitted.

It is in this scenario that top epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera has warned of a severe outbreak of dengue and also rat fever and has urged the public to follow the same alertness and caution they displayed when dealing with the Coronavirus a few months ago.

According to him so far there this year there were over 27,000 cases of dengue reported from around the country with 33 deaths while rat fever accounted for 70 deaths with over 6000 persons affected.This, in a situation where only 11 deaths occurred in the entire country due to the deadly Covid-19.

Hence, like the Coronavirus there is today another lurking health threat that may descend upon us,which, if no timely action is taken, is bound to eclipse even the damage caused by the deadly pandemic.This is because dengue is known to take a heavy toll of lives among those affected and the sooner the emergency measures are put in place to confront the threat the easier it will be to come out of the crisis. For this to happen prompt measures are called for to identify and destroy the dengue mosquito vector that is lurking in our midst. For weeks now there have been warnings from the health authorities and even the Health Minister of a rapid spread of the dengue epidemic which now has made its foreboding presence felt with the onset of the monsoon. Some weeks ago the National Dengue Prevention Unit had raised alarm that the dengue mosquito larvae density had reached a monstrous 80 per cent in schools, Government departments and construction sites which have all been lying abandoned for over three months during the lockdown period and have naturally provided breeding grounds for not only dengue but also other diseases. No doubt, the health sector had been stretched to beyond its full capacity to cope with the Coronavirus crisis. 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. Hence, 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 play an important role in this connection. 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 the Colombo city in the Western Province which is most vulnerable to epidemics, given its vast population and profusion of buildings and structures that provide 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 vector. All hotels and eating houses in the 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.

While the health guidelines with respect to the Coronavirus is strictly enforced it is as well to ensure dangers posed by other diseases and viruses in our midst is 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 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 augers well for healthy lifestyles which in turn could lead to a reduction in the national health budget in these trying times economically speaking.

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 healthy lifestyles for all.