The Dengu Epidemic: Can it be contained?
Posted on August 3rd, 2010

By Garvin Karunratne, Ph.D.

The Dengu Epidemic is in full swing and many deaths are reported. When I spoke to a friend over the telephone recently, he mentioned that there is another killer fever prevailing today, which is not identified as Dengu.

 Something appears to have gone wrong with our prevention methods and I am attempting to identify what went wrong.

 In the meantime the situation has become so serious that strongman Dr Mervyn Silva has threatened to get hold of the councilors and local officers and tie them to trees to make them do their duty. It is reported today that he had tied an officer to a tree for not attending a Dengu prevention meeting. The more I hear of Dr Mervyn’s episodes I get back in nostalgia to my days in the Administrative Service where some of us administrators did threaten people to get things done when normal channels of instruction- letters and orders did not work. I had not tied anyone to a tree but officers who failed in their duty were far more mercilessly dealt with by me.

 Though domiciled abroad I lived in Sri Lanka in 1995 to 2000 and have been a regular visitor since, not living in the cloistered Five Star Hotels but amongst the people in my Nugegoda home. I have seen the sprayer folk spraying homes on about a monthly basis and have seen the piles of garbage piled up on the street junctions. In my most recent visit early this year I observed that the junctions have been cleared of garbage piles but was amazed to find the garbage being dumped at Navinna getting just out of control. The stench is nauseating and I cannot imagine how the people around it live.

 To my thinking the prevention measures taken today have to be reviewed.

 The First line of attack today is the spraying of premises by individual sprayers who emanate from the Urban Councils in the mornings every day destined to spray a particular area. They carry the spraying can with the insecticide and mix it with water as they proceed from land to land. Though they never demand a bribe, unless a fifty or hundred rupee note is handed over the spray consists more water. I have met them personally and walked with them as they sprayed my land. I am certain that the land is not sprayed properly and overtures to them to get the land sprayed properly, even after payment, were really useless. The bribe has to be inevitably given. Bribery is endemic today but can be eradicated. I have had the occasion to get things done at the Pradeshiya Sabha at Delgoda and Kotte and the complicated work, including searching for old files was willingly done without any bribes by the lady officers. In the case of the sprayers even with the bribe they do not spray properly. The people in charge of the spraying will not accept my contention but I am certain about my observation.

 Action has to be taken immediately to ensure that the lands are sprayed properly. I can remember my days in Anuradhapura in the Fifties and Sixties when a group of around five sprayers with a supervisor went house to house spraying the homes and the lands properly. We did eradicate malaria in the process. That seems to be the way ahead and I am certain that if this spraying is done effectively we can tackle the Dengu and other fevers that are raging in Sri Lanka.

 Clearing garbage piles at junctions is a must and the Councils have to act fast.

 The massive garbage piles at the land fills at places like Navinna have to be tackled- with adequate machinery to cover the garbage immediately it is dumped.

 I hope this comment of mine especially about the spraying of land will be taken seriously. One cannot expect the Dengu epidemic to disappear unless we take immediate action to get the areas properly sprayed.

 Garvin Karunaratne,
former Government Agent,
Matara District
04/08/2010

2 Responses to “The Dengu Epidemic: Can it be contained?”

  1. jana Says:

    We have being trying to control mosquitoes for the last 60 years with no success. The cause of these diseases is secondary to increase in vectors following urbanisation. Until and unless the country adopts a sustainable devolepment programme and addresses the problems of urbanisation the growth of various diseases from infections to mental disease will increase. As the writer always points out this is also a consequence of the IMF and World Bank led false devolepment programmes very blindly followed by our politicians and public servants who have failed the country. No amount of anti dengue campaigns will eradicate this epidemic as we humans have initiated this process by destroying the harmony in our enviorment. Yet again defying our own buddhist principal of ahimsa and blindly following the white man.

  2. Priyantha Abeywickrama Says:

    Writer seems to be appreciative of western approach of using chemical warfare and a willing partner of imported administrative structure imposed by force on the local community. Obviously, there are many adverse findings in the west on this approach such as more devastating after/side-effects and virulent adaptations that have contributed to proscription of similar chemical warfare in the west lately. Considering the current effort made to fight Dengue, I wonder why non-westerners make it look like gospel to be that confident of western approaches where the westerners themselves tend to judge by crossing their fingers.

    Dengue kill those who cannot resist the disease. But chemicals can kill anyone or everyone, and for many generations. We should not forget that mosquitoes stay above humans in the food chain. This is an interesting case where the Rajapaksa clan loyalists can help. Obviously, wrong methods can lead to more dangers. I though of attaching the following comment (modified) found in the local web following the recent Mervyn Saga to complement my comment.

    Quote “… I wonder whether these politicians are gone mad before going down as they have become such low lives to kick the backs of very people they need to stay in power. I think it is time to say this political maverick, Mervyn Silva with a bogus doctorate, to go to hell. I wonder why MR is letting this fellow to bring this much of disgrace for this long, unless he should be considered to be of much lower in values. Fighting Dengue has become like fighting Rabies by killing the dogs, the victims. People are the victims of this menace and the real culprits are the very pathetic political elite who try to destroy the country and turn it into a western hell-hole full of western ghetto-style urbanisation. Being cold, west is plagued with rats and cockroaches. For a tropical country, it is the mosquitoes that has destroyed many such civilisations. It is their policies including the inherited servility to foreigners including tourism that brought many diseases to the country. Instead of beating the helpless local community for the crimes committed by these political discards, people should stand up to them and reject them to get rid of all the evil. If they keep doing anti-people practices, even coming to power of SF could be a reality if nothing else works in the meantime. Politicos should know better that such scenarios would be much worse for them than suffering from Dengue. It is interesting to note that Dengue and a few other issues would be more significant events affecting their future prospects. Unfortunately their pathetic effort born out of following their old master will make it worse and add a few more problems to the list of grievances suffered by the people. They do exactly what westerners could do, I mean do things to make matters worse…” Unquote

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