Recent findings at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, a government-funded research centre in Pune, shows that India's climate will become hotter and wetter with global climate change. This will have a substantial impact on human health and well being.

Irregularities in climatic conditions and high temperature affect the distribution of vector-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, chikungunya, lymphatic filariasis, and kala-azar. While the fallout of vector-borne diseases may be difficult to handle, control and prevention is easy to integrate.

Prevention is key

The most important weapon is prevention of mosquito (or other vector) breeding. Measures can be taken to not allow mosquitoes to breed. Pouring oil on stagnant pools of water around homes kills the larva. Covering water containers and proper disposal of open containers does not allow the mosquito to breed.

Prevention of mosquito breeding requires long-term planning but strategies to escape bites are easy to follow. Avoiding mosquito bites is the cornerstone of protection. Measures to prevent mosquito bites include sleeping under a net, wearing long-sleeved clothes and using repellents.

Two kinds

Mosquito repellents are of two types: insecticide-based (coils, mats, spray) and personal application products (cream, lotion, gel, spray). While the former can only be used inside rooms, the latter can be used anywhere, anytime. When applied, they mask the body odour so that the mosquitoes are unable to detect the skin. Mosquito repellents containing DEBA or N,N-Diethyl Benzamide are most effective in terms of efficacy and safety. Also they can be used outdoors as well as indoors. They can be safely used for infants and children, who are at higher risk of being bitten as they do not know how to protect themselves.

The writer is the Head, Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS, New Delhi and the President, Indian Public Health Association.