Power shutdowns affect people in different ways. One unimagined, yet real effect seems to be the proliferation of the dengue-causing Aedes aegypti.

Residents in the villages of Tamil Nadu are forced to store water in containers, thanks to lengthy power cuts every day. Thereby, unwittingly, with improper storage, they are building the perfect breeding ground for the dengue-causing mosquito.

Aedes aegypti breeds in clear, collected water. With people all over the State resorting to storing as much water as possible when power is available, this accumulated water provides the perfect opportunity for the mosquito to breed.

“The power supply is a huge factor in this case. We have been to Theni, Vellore and Krishnagiri and have seen it for ourselves,” said S.Elango, former Director of Public Health and current Vice-president, Indian Public Health Association. Water is collected in plastic drums, cement tanks and oil barrels, he added. “Both dengue causing vectors – Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus – breed in clear water, so these containers act as a source for breeding,” he said.

“People think mosquitoes breed only in unclean water. But they breed in clean water too,” Dr. Elango said. Improper storage of water is key to the problem. “It is important to keep the containers covered, and empty out and scrub them clean frequently. Do not allow water to be stored for days on end.”

S. Jayachandra, a family health practitioner, who runs a private clinic in Thiruvangadu, near Sirgazhi, in Nagapattinam district, says a number of cases of fever of unknown origin and insect bites are coming in every day. “Even yesterday, there were five dengue positive cases. We observe the patient for three days, and if fever persists along with other symptoms, we send the blood sample for dengue tests. We are extra careful with children, since dengue can be fatal for them,” he says.

The “fever” situation in Tamil Nadu was discussed at a meeting called by the Chief Minister on Wednesday.

Additional deployment of officials in these affected areas is also being done on advice from the Chief Minister. Special teams have been sent to affected areas, and monitoring and evaluation at the affected areas is being conducted by the Health Secretary and other senior health officials. Collectors of the affected districts have been sensitised, according to officials.

Officially, the following districts have the most number of dengue cases in the State: Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Chennai, Coimbatore, Tirupur, Kanyakumari, and Tirunelveli districts. Intensive campaigning is on to reduce breeding at the source. This includes providing information to the public on proper storage of water (keeping it covered, and cleaning out containers).

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