The deadly disease among us

Our good friend Avinash is a relieved man these days. His elderly father is just back home from hospital, after a debilitating bout of dengue fever. Avinash’s dad is lucky to be recovering, because in AECS Layout near Whitefield where he lives, there are increasing cases of dengue fever. “My parents’ neighbour, a woman, died of the fever. Now her 18-year-old son is battling dengue,” says a worried Avinash.

And I know of other people affected by the virus. In my son’s school, his class teacher’s five-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, are slowly recovering (as I write this), from a bout of dengue fever. They live on Stephens Road.

Yes, the newspapers have been reporting a rise in dengue cases, but I suspect the outbreak is much more severe than we think. So all of us need to be careful. Because no area or gated community or individual house/apartment is safe from the dengue virus. It is mosquito-borne and, mosquitoes can bite regardless of where you live. 

One of the deadliest

Here’s what I learned about dengue: did you know that the dengue virus is considered as dangerous as the Ebola virus? Foreigners are routinely warned about travelling in tropical countries like India, because of the risk of contracting dengue. In fact, dengue makes it to the Top Ten of the world’s deadliest viruses in one list

And worryingly, Bangalore is particularly susceptible to it right now–everywhere there are piles of garbage, the stagnant water, the storm water drains choked with plastic and recylable waste–optimum mosquito breeding conditions. So what is being done to make our city a healthier place to live in? The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike apparently has sanitation squads criss crossing the city. Not that I have seen one at work, have you? According to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, during an outbreak, the city has to spray insecticides as an emergency vector control measure. What’s more, the city is supposed to “actively monitor and do surveillance of vectors to determine effectiveness of control interventions”. I wonder if that is happening.

So what is dengue?

Dengue should be suspected when a high fever (40°C/ 104°F) is accompanied by two of the following symptoms: severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands or rash. Symptoms usually last for 2–7 days, after an incubation period of 4–10 days after the bite from an infected mosquito.

Severe dengue is a potentially deadly complication due to plasma leaking, fluid accumulation, respiratory distress, severe bleeding, or organ impairment. Warning signs occur 3–7 days after the first symptoms in conjunction with a decrease in temperature (below 38°C/ 100°F) and include: severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums, fatigue, restlessness, blood in vomit. The next 24–48 hours of the critical stage can be lethal; proper medical care is needed to avoid complications and risk of death.

(Source: WHO)

Thing is, we cannot afford to sit back and wait for the BBMP to act. We need to be alert and proactive as well, to keep ourselves and our families healthy. Because, dengue is preventable. And because the virus doesn’t care if you live in a high rise, an individual home or a hut.

All we need to do is:

1: Stop dumping garbage outside; take plastic and recyclable waste to the Dry Waste Centre in your area.

2: Install a bio-composter like Daily Dump to take care of organic/kitchen waste.

3: Routinely clean both fresh and stored water containers, that includes pots and old tyres in your garden.

4: Fix screens to windows and doors, and don’t forget the bathroom/storeroom windows.

5: Wear long-sleeved clothing if going outside in the evening, and use mosquito nets in the bedroom or spray mosquito repellents. For instance, Just Spray is a “100 % Natural, No Chemicals’ mosquito repellent available in pharmacies across Bangalore. It has been developed with technology from CSIR-CIMAP (Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants) under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of the Union Ministry of Science and Technology.

6: And for safer, natural mosquito-repellent alternatives, why not grow plants such as rosemary, peppermint, citronella? Take a look at this link for more ideas:

Update on 25th Sep:

‘Good’ mosquitoes, anyone?

A friend just sent me a link to a BBC article on an interesting dengue-control programme now underway in Brazil–to release mosquitoes “infected with bacteria that suppress dengue fever”. The hope is, these “good” mosquitoes will “multiply, breed and become the majority of mosquitoes, thus reducing cases of the disease. To read the entire article, click here:

Maybe the BBMP should take a look too. What say?


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