Recommend measures to keep mosquitoes at bay in and around the house

The monsoon season has not brought much rain in its wake. Yet, dengue fever has struck, with a schoolgirl becoming an early casualty and many other children under treatment for symptoms of the virus.

Doctors say a key factor in the dengue outbreak this year is the scarcity of water. P. Amutha Rajeswari, president, Indian Academy of Paediatrics, says the depleted groundwater level is driving residents to collect water from sundry sources and store it at home for long periods. While storing water in every conceivable object, many fail to ensure that the containers are tightly closed.

“Dengue-causing mosquitoes don’t lay eggs in ditches, drains and canals. They lay eggs only in water-filled containers kept in and around the house. It is vital to make sure that water containers are not left open,” she advises.

K. Sathish of Narayanapuram says the borewell in his house has dried up, and he has since been drawing water from a pipeline on the lawn at the entrance to the Collector’s bungalow. “I go there once a week, collect water in six to seven canisters and carry them back in my car. While this water meets the family’s drinking needs, we purchase water from private tankers for bathing and washing vessels. We store water in the overhead tank and in drums. I make sure that all water containers are tightly closed. But my neighbour does not. The residents welfare associations must take a lead and sensitise their members,” he adds.

Ms. Rajeswari says apart from keeping water containers covered, people should regularly drain the trays attached to air coolers and refrigerators. It is important to scrub the inner walls of the containers as the dengue-causing mosquitoes lay their eggs there. “The eggs can remain intact even in empty containers for several months. They would begin hatching once water collects in the containers. Likewise, people should ensure that water does not stagnate inside empty coconut shells, unused tyres and bottles lying around the house. These items are best disposed of,” she recommends.

Paediatrician M. Mathivanan notes that the biggest difficulty in diagnosing dengue is the absence of any unique symptoms. “People should visit doctors at once in the event of a slight rise in body temperature, headache, and pain in the muscles and bones. Rashes or red spots on the body could be an indication of a decrease in the blood platelet count.”

According to an advisory issued by the National Vector-Borne Disease Control Programme of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, doctors have been advised not to administer antibiotics and drugs such as Aspirin, Brufen or Ibubrufen to patients afflicted with dengue fever.

Dr. Mathivanan stresses the importance of community participation: “Rather than treating the virus attack, it is wise to prevent it by containing mosquito breeding. This is possible only if society as a whole comes together and keeps the surroundings clean. It is a collective responsibility.”