City vulnerable to vector-borne diseases sans them

: There are no entomologists in the health wing of the Madurai Corporation to alert the civic body to an impending outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases.

Public health officials say the situation is alarming given that the city’s population has crossed 15 lakh.

Going by the size of the Corporation, there has to be at least one chief entomologist, three senior entomologists, four junior entomologists and 16 field assistants. The absence of an entomological team makes Madurai vulnerable to vector-borne diseases such as dengue, malaria and chikungunya because mosquito management in a growing city cannot be done on an ad hoc basis, Health Department officials have warned.

A senior Corporation official told The Hindu on Thursday that last year’s dengue outbreak in a few pockets could have been averted or mitigated by the presence of a team of entomologists.

While public memory is still fresh around last year’s spurt of fever cases, the Corporation is under pressure to build a team of entomologists. A step in this direction is the transfer on deputation of R.Varadharajan, a faculty member from the Madurai Medical College, to the Corporation as senior entomologist in-charge.

S. Elango, former Director of Public Health and presently State president of the Indian Public Health Association (IPHA), said that a recommendation had been made for the creation of a separate entomology wing in all Corporations.

"When Chennai Corporation has entomologists, why not Madurai? Having a city health officer will not suffice," he said. Dr.Elango said that it was mandatory for Madurai Corporation to ask the State government to sanction a mosquito analysis wing. District Malaria Officer Latha Freeda Joan said that an entomologist was required to study mosquito density and draw up the blueprint for a monitoring mechanism in the city. Meanwhile, sources said the Corporation has finalised a proposal for the sanction of posts which will be submitted to the Commissioner of Municipal Administration. The proposal was placed before the Corporation council members.

"If you observe the functioning of any Corporation, the focus is on engineering and civil works. Public health issues are secondary. But such neglect could prove deadly especially in places like Madurai," the IPHA State president cautioned.

"Nearly 30 wards have high mosquito density and a fever survey has to be constantly done. Breeding index and source assessment can be done only by qualified personnel. At the moment, I have trained a few employees of the Corporation. But there is only one field assistant. We are covering 100 wards," Mr. Varadharajan said.

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