What happened to the huge outcry that prevailed in the country a few weeks ago against the killer disease, dengue? The entire government was agog with finding solutions to the rapid spread of the disease days ago while media too had focused its full attention towards the same end. There seems to be a considerable let up now in the flurry of activities that had been aimed at the eradication of dengue mosquitoes apparently because of the slight reduction of the number of dengue cases and more attractive political issues such as the Ravi Karunanayake saga coming to the fore.
Despite the Colombo National Hospital having closed last week the special dengue ward it had opened last month claiming that there was a decline in the number of dengue patients admitted to the hospital, the reports from the Epidemiology Unit of the Health Ministry do not paint a rosy picture on the situation. The number of cases reported in the last two months (June and July), according to the Epidemiology Unit had been 25,222 and 37,837 respectively and this points to a fifty percent increase of the killer disease last month compared to the previous month.
However, there is a progress in the situation this month with the number of cases reported hither to standing at around 5,000, and at this rate the number to be reported at the end of the month would be around 15,000. One can argue that this is a drastic reduction in the spread of the disease compared to last month but one should not be blind to the fact that this month’s number is equal to one fourth of the total number of cases reported last year and to half the number reported in 2015. Therefore it is too early for the country to take solace or rejoice over any success in the prevention of the disease or in the eradication of mosquitoes.
The country, including the government has a habit of being carried away by the media hypes and media, in turn have a habit of forgetting any important matter once it gets a new topic. And thus the eradication of mosquitoes seems to have taken a back seat now. No shramadana campaigns for cleaning the premises of various institutions were heard of, no fumigation in any area was seen for the past few weeks, with the hullabaloo over the garbage disposal receding and new topics taking over.
We witnessed the same situation in respect of floods as well. When the Kelani Ganga devastated the lower Kelani Valley areas in May last year, we witnessed many pundits waxing eloquent on the reasons of flooding and how to minimize or prevent floods for good and also on helping victims. So many high level meetings were held where politicians put forward so many plans to prevent recurrence and rehabilitate the affected areas and the people. However, it is public knowledge that nothing happened until the next flood threat was announced by the Disaster Management Centre in May this year.
The relative decline in dengue cases reported this month might be attributed to the absence of rain in the densely populated Western Province. With the next round of inclement weather, we might face a similar or worse situation, if the authorities let up on the preventive and eradication measures against the killer epidemic.