Medi-snippets: Dengue Unit launches a new program as cases, deaths soar | Sunday Observer

Medi-snippets: Dengue Unit launches a new program as cases, deaths soar

4 August, 2019

Amid warnings of a sharp rise in suspected dengue cases and deaths reported from different parts of the island, the Dengue Unit launched a new clean up campaign during the school vacation starting from July 31 to August 2 in high risk areas, ahead of the GCE A/L examination which commences tomorrow (August 5). Consultant Community Physician, Dengue Unit, Health Ministry, Dr Preshila Samaraweera told the Sunday Observer, that the Unit had the cooperation of the Ministry of Education, and special funds had been allocated for the program. “ We also enlisted volunteers from the surrounding areas”, she informed.

The Epidemiology Unit has cited a total of 32,043 dengue cases and 45 dengue deaths have been reported from across the country this year up to last week. Compared to the previous year where only 58 deaths were reported for the whole year , the number of deaths (45) for only half of the year has far exceeded the previous year. Informed sources said that this year the third and fourth type of dengue virus had been reported unlike in the past where it was only the first and second type.

Dr Samaraweera said six high risk districts including Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Ratnapura, Galle and Hambantota, had been identified with Colombo district recording 6,771 dengue cases, and the Western Province continuing to lead the rest with a total of 13,987 cases. Asked what methods were being used to destroy the dengue carrying vector (Aedes aegypti), she said , “We are using all the methods we have been using before, such as, fogging, spraying, and cleaning up. In addition, we have started a pilot project using wolbatchia a locally growing plant. Entomological surveillance has also been strengthened to identify high risk areas early.”

She blamed the poor garbage collection, especially, in many areas of the city of Colombo, for the increase in dengue cases and urged the authorities to introduce a proper systematic garbage collecting system. “We have started awareness raising programs for the public including schoolchildren on the importance of maintaining clean surroundings. A drop of water is sufficient to be transformed into a breeding site for the dengue carrying mosquito larvae. Disposing garbage in a systematic manner and keeping the neighbourhood clean is the most effective way of eliminating dengue risk,” she said.

AMC ready to face drug resistant malaria strain

“Over 20,000 health officials have been alerted on the current drug resistant strain of malaria on line, and advised on how to identify and treat any symptoms.”, Anti Malaria Campaign (AMC) Director, Dr. Hemantha Herath told the Sunday Observer. ‘We have all the required technology and facilities to detect any type of malaria. Noting that the AMC had one of the best surveillance systems in the world he said any new strains will be detected at once. So it is highly unlikely that Sri Lanka will be affected by the new drug resistant strain of malaria now emerging in South East Asia”.

Assuring the public that there was no need for panic, he said that second line drugs were available to treat drug resistant malaria. “Infected patients can be cured and there is no risk of death,” he said.

Although Sri Lanka eliminated malaria in 2016, 17 cases have been reported this year. “These are all ‘imported’ cases. There is no local transmission”, he emphasised. “The problem is, we have a large number of people travelling to and from countries affected by the disease. In addition, we also have several foreign workers. So this puts us at constant risk of malaria re-entering the country,” he said.

Asked what preventive measures had been taken for such travellers, he said, “for those travelling abroad to high risk malaria countries, we provide advice and anti malaria drugs free of charge to protect them from getting infected during their stay.”

Task force to reduce maternal mortality from dengue fever completes report

The Task force set up in February 2019 to reduce maternal mortality from dengue fever handed its findings to the Minister of Health, Dr Rajtha Senaratne at the inauguration ceremony of the 132nd anniversary of the International Medical Congress held last week. The international gathering of distinguished health personnel in different specialties from Sri Lanka and abroad, aimed at raising public awareness on a wide range of health issues, met on July 24 and concluded on July 27. In her welcome message President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association which organised the Congress Dr Anula Wijesundare was quoted as saying that she was extremely happy to have completed the report adding that the Suicide Prevention Task force too was gaining momentum and would coincide with a packed program of events to coincide with the Suicide Prevention Week in September this year.

The Congress adhering to its theme, “Facing the challenge and forging ahead for better health outcomes”, highlighted specific health challenges that Sri Lanka faced; namely, reducing the incidence of non communicable diseases, smoking and tobacco use, dangerous drugs, suicides, dengue fever, traffic accidents, AIDS, chronic kidney disease of agricultural communities, keeping Sri Lanka malaria free and coping with a rising geriatric population.