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Plagued by Dengue Fever, Sri Lanka Looks to the Weatherman

Plagued by Dengue Fever, Sri Lanka Looks to the Weatherman

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Published by Thavam

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Published by: Thavam on Jul 01, 2014
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Schoolchildren hold up a handmade sign that reads: ‘Let’s Eradicate Dengue’. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS
COLOMBO, Jun 30 2014 (IPS)
- What’s the connection between weather forecasts and the mosquito-borne dengue virus? It’s not just a question for science nerds; in Sri Lanka, heath officias beieve answering this question coud save ives!"#  $mantha %erera&or over haf a decade now, doctors and residents of this isand nation, es'ecia# those iving in the cram'ed Western %rovince, have been batting the 'ersistent, sometimes dead#, dengue 'ague, which tends to foow the monsoon rains that drench the southwest coast from (une to )ctober!*he tro'ica disease genera# resuts in 'roonged fever, musce and joint 'ains, as we as skin rashes! In a sma number of cases, the disease turns into the ife-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, characterised b# beeding, ow eves of bood 'ateets, or dangerous# ow bood 'ressure, which can send the victim into shock, sometimes triggering fataities!
In mid-+, soon after the annua monsoon, dengue infections increased at an aarming rate across Sri Lanka! "# the end of the #ear, ./,/ 'eo'e were infected, whie the number of fataities stood at .01!*he im'act of the e'idemic can be gauged b# com'aring current infection rates with the ast dengue outbreak, which was recorded in 23, a #ear that saw + infections and around 2. deaths!Since + the number of infections has been steadi# high; the# have never faen beow +3,, whie the highest number of infections 4 00,012 4 was re'orted in +2+!Whie fataities have been brought down 4 there were 3. deaths in +2., the same #ear that ogged .+, infections 4 dengue e5'erts and medica 'rofessionas sa# there is an urgent need for a com'rehensive management 'an to curtai the im'act of the disease!
We need a much more stringent 'revention regime,6 7imaka %anniahetti, a consutant communit# 'h#sician at the 7ationa 8engue 9ontro :nit, tod I%S!It is not that Sri Lanka has been a5 on tacking mosquito breeding grounds; in fact it has initiated ever#thing from a %residentia *ask &orce on 8engue %revention, to fines for those who negect 'ossibe breeding grounds, to decaring nationa dengue eradication 'rogrammes!:nfortunate#, the combined resut of these 'rojects is that the rate of infection is e5act# what it was five #ears ago, or 4 in areas where sight reductions are re'orted 4 sti aarming# high!*he situation is es'ecia# worr#ing in the Western %rovince, home to over +/ 'ercent of the countr#’s 'o'uation of over + miion 'eo'e, and to 1 'ercent of a re'orted dengue cases since +!nter the forecasters<iven that so man# strategies have been tried and faied, e5'erts are now suggesting that the authorities ca in he' from the nationa =eteoroogica "ureau as the atest wea'on in the fight against the virus!&aseeha 7oordeen, head of the de'artment of microbioog# at the :niversit# of %eradeni#a in centra Sri Lanka, tod I%S that there is a cear connection between changing cimate 'atterns and the s'read of dengue!
 When we have better forecast data, we [will] be able to correlate the disease distribution in various parts of the island and make a feasible disease map that can  be used for the whole country." -- Faseeha Noordeen, head of the department of microbioloy at the !niversity of eradeniya
In a
 she co-authored, 'ubished in the Internationa (ourna of Infectious 8iseases in )ctober +2., 7oordeen said that mosquito breeding grounds increased foowing heav# rains, 'ointing out that the two annua 'eaks in infections were recorded soon after the two annua monsoons!7oordeen’s research aso found that warming weather 'atterns increased the distribution of the dengue-carr#ing mosquito! She beieves that detaied weather forecasts coud he' heath authorities to better aocate resources and strategica# im'ement 'revention cam'aigns!
When we have better forecast data, we >wi be abe to correate the disease distribution in various 'arts of the isand >and make a feasibe disease ma' that can be used for the whoe countr#,6 she said!%anniahetti agrees, stressing that detaied forecasts woud be @invauabe6 for 'eo'e ike her, who are tasked with hunting a s'ecies of mosquito that is constant# on the move, and eradicating a disease that is constant# changing!
Aight now we are foowing the rains,6 she said! @%reem'tive 'rogrammes coud be much more effective!6=idwa# through (une the %revention :nit was scrambing to reocate most of its resources to the Western %rovince, which absorbed the heaviest rains in the first week of this month!*he third of week of (une, meanwhie, saw the aunch of a massive dengue eradication 'rogramme that incuded members of the armed forces, %anniahetti added!Some regions of the 'rovince received four to si5 times their average (une rainfa in the first week of the month this #ear! %anniahetti said that detaied forecasts woud have enabed heath officias to raise their eves of 're'aredness beforehand!<reater risks for ow-income communitiesShe added that the burden of the disease is uneven# distributed between the rich and 'oor, since the s'read of dengue is arge# determined b# the ceaniness of the immediate environment, and a communit#’s 'ro5imit# to rece'taces ike tanks of stagnant water, or even accumuated garbage!
What we have seen is that there are more breeding grounds in ow income areas, where 'eo'e tend to 'a# ess attention to how safe or heath# their immediate environment is,6 %anniahetti said! $dditiona#, medica treatment comes at a high 'rice, often eaving the 'oor without access to quait# care!LakBumar &ernando, who heads the 9entre for 9inica =anagement of 8engue and 8engue Cemorrhagic &ever at the 7egombo <overnment Cos'ita, ./ km north of the

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