Community participation vital for disease prevention, says expert

The mosquito phobia is back in Madurai. After the outbreak of dengue across the district last year, are the health and civic authorities prepared to meet the challenge this time around?

With the monsoon just three months away, the question uppermost in peoples’ minds is whether the health department and Madurai Corporation’s plan of action is effective enough to keep the mosquito related diseases, such as dengue and chikungunya at bay.

The authorities need to be proactive rather than get in to panic mode following an outbreak. Going by past experience, the fever trend sets in July, peaks in October and subsides in December. Unfortunately, by this time, there are fatalities, especially among children.

Though the authorities were initially in denial mode when Madurai district was in the grip of dengue fever during the entire second half of last year, they finally conceded that poor mosquito management was the root cause of the epidemic. Melur block suffered the worst as many families lost their near and dear due to exposure to mosquito attacks.

“What we saw last year,” observes B.K. Tyagi, Director, Centre for Research in Medical Entomology, “is a lesson for us and makes it important to plan in advance. “The disease transmission starts in July. Destroying the mosquito breeding sources is crucial,” he says.

The Madurai Corporation Commissioner, R. Nanthagopal, promises to have a specific action plan put in place for all the 100 wards. This includes cleaning of the storm water drains on a priority basis.

“We are deploying additional sanitary workers and entomologists to reduce the mosquito menace. Another 200 workers will be engaged in spraying abate insecticide in water sources in residential areas,” he says.

According to District Malaria Officer Latha Freeda Joan, the Health Department is focusing on creating public awareness on water storage at home, how it should be done in a protected way and the containers should be kept closed.

Dr. Tyagi says community participation is vital for disease prevention and every family needs to ensure that there is no water stagnation in their surroundings. “This is the time we have to be cautious because people tend to store water due to water scarcity. The aedes mosquito breeds in utensils,” he says.

In 2011, Madurai district had 41 dengue positive cases. In 2012, the figure shot up to 2,364 dengue cases with an official death toll of 18. “As majority of the cases were reported in October and November, it indicates these two months are crucial to keep a check,” says Ms.Joan.

This year, the district has already seen 129 dengue cases, 16 chikungunya and eight malaria cases in January and February.

The health wing of the Madurai Corporation says it will not delay the anti-mosquito drive this year. From April 1, a special fogging and anti-larval operation would be launched.

V.Yasodha Mani, City Health Officer, assure the public that hand fogging will be intensified based on house index in each ward. The high-risk areas for vector borne diseases are Sellur, Bibikulam, Aruldosspuram, Jaihindpuram, Avaniapuram, Thiruppalai, Uthangudi and Tirupparankundram. Other places in the danger zone are Kallandiri, Samayanallur, Tiruvadavaur, A.Vellalapatti, Mayandipatti, Sakkimangalam and Melur municipality area.

Assistant City Health Officer Priya Raj discloses that the Corporation has 68 hand-fogging machines and eight vehicle-mounted fogging units. Sanitary inspectors have been asked to identify mosquito breeding sources and take steps to clean all the water channels. A plan to deploy 600 workers for sanitation, garbage, drainage and mosquito control is being worked out.

The CRME is lending its expertise to the Madurai Corporation and local bodies to focus on waste disposal, clearing of garbage and cleaning up drainage system.

In fact, it is now ready with a special document called ‘Madurai Master Plan for Mosquito Control’ prepared by Dr.Tyagi and his colleague Dr.T.Mariappan to be submitted to Corporation health authorities in a couple of weeks. After clearance by a scientific advisory committee in New Delhi, it will be given to the civic body and kept in the public domain.

Last year, during the peak dengue season, private hospitals in the city had a tough time in admitting fever patients because of shortage of beds. The Government Rajaji Hospital had to open up special fever wards and arrange makeshift facility to treat patients bring rushed from rural areas. With the public in the grip of a dengue scare, it is time to declare war on mosquitoes.