Residents oblivious to mosquito breeding sources, says Corporation, as dengue season looms

On June 2, a five-year-old boy of Village Street in Kaladipet of Tiruvottiyur died of a suspected case of dengue.

He was, however, being treated for a ‘viral infection’ allegedly contracted while on a visit to the family’s hometown of Vichoor. The Corporation too, recorded the reason for the boy’s death as viral infection.

The Corporation has now strengthened mosquito control measures in the city. June-August is when the most number of dengue cases are reported.

Child was sick for more than two weeks

The child, Harikrishnan, had been sick for nearly 15 days, his neighbours say. Doctors, however, say viral infections do not last more than three days and deaths in such cases, especially among children, are rare.

Now, with the child’s family having moved out of the neighbourhood, the trail has gone cold.

According to employees in charge of the ward where Harikrishnan lived, the boy had reported with fever in mid-May and was treated for a few days at a private clinic.

As his condition did not improve, he was referred to the Communicable Diseases Hospital in Tondiarpet. A day later, he was referred to Government Stanley Hospital ‘for specialised treatment’ and he died there on June 2.

“The boy’s family had occupied the house on Village Street just a few months ago. After the boy’s death, they moved to another house,” says one neighbour.

There are 15 houses on the street where Harikrishnan’s family lived. Each house has three or four tenant families. The men work as furniture fitters, masons or mechanics. The families depend on tanker water supply. “We get water once in three or four days,” said Santhi, a resident.

That the Corporation has been conducting regular checks on these streets is evident by the pencil markings on the walls of the houses.

Officials say the area is vulnerable to mosquito-related infections as residents often store water in cans and pots. According to the women residents, though mosquito menace is a problem in the area, Corporation workers have done little to raise awareness about diseases.

Corporation workers, however, say they are assaulted and denied entry into households every time they visit the neighbourhood for surveys.

“Whenever we see larval movement, we throw out the water stored in drums and buckets. The residents get angry when we do this. But there is little else we can do,” an official said.

The Hindu traced Harikrishnan’s family to an address in a bylane of Mettu Street but they were not at home. Though the lane is broader than Village Street, it too has houses with multiple tenants, increasing the chances of water-borne infections.

Resources in short supply

Corporation workers say they need more fogging machines. Ward 13, of which Harikrishnan was a resident, has 12 workers who cover 50 houses every day.

The Corporation has placed orders for procurement of an additional 170 fogging machines.

“Over the past weeks, malaria workers have brought mosquito breeding under control. But sustaining the momentum is a challenge. The additional private workers too are targeting mosquito breeding grounds,” says M. Prabakaran, a councillor in Tiruvottiyur.

For the Corporation to prosecute residents whose actions lead to mosquito breeding, it is necessary to invoke the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act.

But officials say, as there is a jurisdictional conflict in taking up the matter, no effort has been taken to address the issue. Some residents do not cooperate with the rapid response team at the zonal level when a suspected dengue/malaria case is reported, they say.

Meanwhile, though the civic body has asked all zones to adhere to the dengue treatment protocol — norms for monitoring clinical signs and symptoms for management of the infection — most patients with fever are not subjected to the protocol.