Vizhinjam is again turning out to be the hot spot for all vector-borne diseases in the district, with six cases of malaria and five cases of dengue fever being reported from the Mukkola-Kottappuram area in the past two weeks.
With its peculiar socio-economic and environmental conditions, Vizhinjam's disease vulnerability had been a perpetual headache for the district health administration. While the socio-cultural profile of the population — most of whom were fishermen — posed its own problems, much of Vizhinjam's health problems were linked to the sole fact that the area did not have a piped supply of safe drinking water.
In the absence of piped water supply, people buy water and store it in large containers inside and outside the house for washing and cleaning purposes. These vessels lacked proper lids leading to large-scale vector breeding.
Health workers who had been taking up house visits in the area in the past week, found plenty of vector-breeding sites inside homes. “Vector-control activities, including fogging, indoor residual spraying, and source reduction, are being carried out in the area intensively, by engaging special teams of health workers. But as soon as field activities slacken, we have a resurgence of both malaria and dengue. Two cases of leptospirosis were also reported from the area during the period,” one of the health workers in the locality said.
“Imported cases of malaria resulting in local outbreaks have been a regular feature at Vizhinjam area because most of the families there have good connections in Tamil Nadu and the fishermen regularly travel to locations there. Malaria is rampant just across the Tamil Nadu border and those who come back from these visits having caught the infection, will end up spreading it to an entire street if vector indices in the area are high,” he added.
Advice to the local population to take personal protection measures against the night-biting Anopheles mosquitoes which transmitted malaria and to sleep under mosquito nets goes unheeded. Most fishermen preferred to sleep in the outdoors and stood the risk of getting bitten by infected mosquitoes.
Sources at the Health Department pointed out that continuous and consistent field activities were almost impossible in the locality because most health workers wanted to leave the area as soon as they were posted there. “Poor hygiene, and lack of sanitation and proper drinking water supply has been the bane of Vizhinjam. We have been appealing to the authorities to launch micro water supply schemes for the locality for many years, because this is the only solution to the area's disease vulnerability,” District Medical Officer T. Peethambaran said.