Corporation supplying fish to check vector-borne diseases

With the threat of mosquito-borne diseases looming large this summer season, public health managers and civic authorities have formulated an effective strategy. They have advised people to let a non-edible fish species into the water tank or sump at home.

This fish species will gobble up the mosquito larvae and thus check the possibility of disease transmission.

The health wing of Madurai Corporation is breeding this ‘larvivorous' fish in large numbers at its hatchery situated next to the swimming pool near Gandhi Museum. It will biologically control the disease causing vectors. “We can introduce the fish in any water body such as pond and well. It is one of the effective ways of preventing vector-borne diseases and a technically sound move in public health management,” S. Elango, former Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, told The Hindu on Tuesday.

The fish deployment strategy will not only control malaria but also dengue and chikungunya.

V. Subramanian, City Health Officer, said that the civic body's fish hatchery was meant for supplying ‘larvivorous' fish to the public.

“People can collect the fish from there and put them in their sumps or tanks. To begin with, we have asked our staff to cover a minimum of 500 houses every day in the North Zone.”

The mosquito species that cause malaria or dengue or chikungunya breed in fresh or clean water. The small-size fish species such as ‘Gambusia' or ‘Guppy,' once introduced in a water tank or well or sump, would eat the mosquito larvae. “Using this larvivorous fish is a cost-effective way for control of vector borne diseases, as vouched by the World Health Organisation,” Dr.Elango said and informed about a successful exercise carried out in Dindigul district when he was the Director of Public Health a couple of years ago.

A comprehensive study was also done by the entomologists of Indian Council of Medical Research which proved that fish option is a good strategy.

He appealed to the Corporations, municipalities and local bodies to have more fish hatcheries and create an awareness of the role of ‘larvivorous' fish in keeping vector-borne diseases at bay.

An appeal

While individual households can get this fish variety through Corporation hatchery, he also urged the apartments and residential complexes to follow this public health technique. But, before letting the fish into a water tank or a sump, it must be ensured that there is a mesh to prevent the fish from getting sucked in.

Madurai District Malaria Officer Latha Freeda Joan also supports this method since it is recommended in integrated vector control programme. “However, it is only one of many ways for controlling vector-borne diseases. This method will be useful in places where water tanks or sumps cannot be cleaned often. The fish will take care of biological control of the larvae,” she said.

Meanwhile, the City Health Officer has said that adequate steps were being taken to prevent outbreak of dengue or other vector-borne diseases. Surveillance had been stepped up after one dengue positive case was confirmed here on Monday when a postgraduate medical student/house surgeon was admitted in Government Rajaji Hospital. “We will intensify the anti-larval work and additional fogging machines will be procured soon for the four zones of Corporation,” Dr.Subramaniam said.

Those who want to know more about the fish deployment strategy can contact the former Public Health Director Dr.Elango on mobile number 94434 49115 or the City Health Officer 94437 39501.

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