Staff Reporter

Lack of hygiene, water scarcity are hurdles

  • Health department claims epidemics have been contained
  • People averse to throwing out water for which they have paid

    Thiruvananthapuram: Lack of public participation in maintaining environmental hygiene and the scarcity of drinking water in Vizhinjam and adjoining coastal areas are undermining the epidemic prevention activities of the Department of Health in the coastal area.

    Even as the Health department officials point out that the fever outbreak in the area has been contained, the area remains vulnerable to further outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya unless the authorities take steps to provide safe drinking water and ensure proper garbage disposal.

    The people of Vizhinjam had resorted to violence a week ago claiming that the Government has done little even as viral fever was spreading in the area. District Collector N. Ayyappan, who mediated with the people, had assured them of permanent measures to resolve the water shortage in the area. He had also promised that 10 doctors would be posted at the community health centre in Vizhinjam for 24-hour surveillance and care of fever cases.

    Only 20 to 30 cases now

    According to Health department officials, the chikungunya outbreak in the area, which had spread as far as Adimalathura in the north and Poovar in the South, has been contained. From the initial days in August when over 500 cases of viral fever used to be reported at the Vizhinjam community health centre daily, the number has now dwindled to 20 or 30.

    Some 15,000 cases of viral fever, most of which could be clinically diagnosed as chikungunya, were reported in the coastal belt in the district in the past one month. There was no situation of an epidemic at Vizhinjam now, health department officials say.

    However, given the crowded and unhygienic living conditions of people in the coast, an outbreak of vector-borne diseases should be expected after every rain, they point out. The concentration of Aedes species of mosquitoes, which spread dengue and chikungunya, has always been quite high in the coastal area.

    So long as a permanent solution was not evolved for the water shortage in the area, the Aedes population would thrive in the drinking water storage containers in houses. Even though the local people had been educated several times over by health workers that water stored in houses should be emptied once a week, people were averse to throwing away the water for which they have paid.

    Health department officials have taken exception to the allegation made by the local people that no public health activities were being undertaken in the region. They claim that disease surveillance and community mobilisation for vector control programmes has never been undertaken on such a comprehensive scale anywhere in Kerala before.

    A team of epidemiologists, entomologists and health volunteers has been working in Vizhinjam for the past one month and has been visiting houses to create awareness among the community. Two persons have been doing daily reporting of fever cases, including those being treated at private hospitals, from Vizhinjam.

    Additional Plan funds and non-plan funds have also been provided in the area for preventive activities such as fogging and spraying of insecticides.

    Even though the District Collector had promised deploying more doctors in the area, this has not been possible because of the strike by Government doctors.