Ramya Kannan

GIS software, Internet to help monitor breeding areas

CHENNAI: The Health Department is adding more ammunition to its stockpile of weapons used in the battle against the mosquito.

Marshalling the most modern of resources — GIS software and Internet — the Public Health Directorate intends to monitor every mosquito-breeding area in the State.

While an integrated disease surveillance system and a Geographic Information System-based mapping of government hospitals is in place, the new project will seek to focus solely on the mosquito and the diseases it spreads.

Director of Public Health P. Padmanabhan says the idea is to use GIS to track mosquito and larval density in specific zones and use that information to predict disease patterns.

While it is part of the tasks of the Health Department to periodically collect mosquito and larval density data, he explains using GIS maps will help to factor in many other patterns that cannot be done manually.

In preparation, the Government has identified 200 sentinel sites in each district from where Health Department are collecting random samples to test for mosquito and larval density. The challenge will now be to integrate this data with a GIS-enabled software.

Mr. Padmanabhan says the mapping will help divide different species of mosquito such as anopheles, culex and Aedes Aegypti, and identify their predominant breeding areas. For instance, it will be able to say if the type of breeding places has changed across the State. Over a period of time, a GIS-map will indicate changing endemic zones, migration of vectors (disease causing mosquitoes) and increasing incidence of disease.

“For example, we have been noticing that dengue is increasing in rural areas and cases of leptospirosis have been going up. There are other issues such as studying the vector balance, which will help predict disease outbreaks and the burden in a particular area. This is where we hope the GIS will come in handy for us public health professionals.”

Talks are on with professionals at IIT-Madras to pair the requirements of the Health Department with existing software.

Open source software

The Public Health Directorate is also examining some free open source software, created by a Kerala-based firm, Zyxware Technologies, which allows mapping of mosquito-borne diseases such as chikungunya, dengue and malaria.

It can be downloaded from the Internet and adapted for specific tasks.

The systems should be ready in about a month’s time, says Mr. Padmanabhan.