Dengue spirals in 42 districts, over 4,600 infectedExperts say had concerned authorities acted on time, the virus could have been contained within a month
As dengue continues to spread—in 42 districts so far—with no sign of being contained anytime soon, government agencies have been engaged in the blame game, with the Health Ministry attributing the rise in the number of cases to lack of coordination among agencies concerned.
Experts, however, squarely lay the blame on the government’s failure to destroy or control the disease-transmitting mosquitoes and their breeding grounds.
“Dengue transmitting mosquito dies within a month,” Shishir Panta, an entomologist, told the Post. “If we had been able to destroy all mosquito-breeding places immediately after the outbreak, new cases would not have emerged even after a month.”
Also, two health experts from the World Health Organization had warned of possible dengue outbreak in the Valley and elsewhere after they found a large number of larvae and pupae of dengue-causing Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.
This should have been enough of a heads-up for the Health Ministry to begin their control efforts in earnest.
Moreover, with the problem initially confined into Sunsari district, mobilising resources to check on the spread of the disease should not have been too difficult for the Health Ministry.
At least one person has died of dengue virus in Sunsari, where over 3,500 people have already been infected, according to the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division.
The division is trying to ascertain whether two other reported deaths were due to dengue virus.
According to the division, 4,611 people have been infected so far this year. First cases were reported back in May. But in the last 40 days alone, 1,536 cases have been reported—563 in Province 1, 559 in Province 3, 339 in Gandaki, 56 in Province 5, 14 in Province 2 and six in Sudurpaschim.
“We had asked the Health Ministry and other stakeholders about the need for coordination to control the spread of virus,” said Panta. “But our suggestions were not taken seriously.”
Ghanshyam Pokhrel, a senior public health administrator at the division, said agencies under other ministries do not necessarily promptly follow instructions from the Health Ministry. The ministry has scheduled a meeting on Thursday with representatives of all ministries concerned for effective coordination.
“Water supplying utility does not supply sufficient water, hence people are forced to hoard water for many days giving ample breeding ground dengue vectors,” said Pokhrel. “Launching search and destroy drive and keeping cities clean falls under the jurisdiction of local levels.”
Doctors say that a lot more people might have been infected with the virus, as people with mild symptoms do not visit the hospital, and 70 to 90 per cent of dengue cases are asymptotic.
“We are trying our best to control the epidemic but people are still being infected with the virus,” said Uttam Raj Pyakural, a vector control inspector at the division said. “It may take another one and a half months to control the epidemic.”
Officials at the Ministry of Health and Population said concerted efforts from all agencies concerned are required to fight diseases.
“The ministry alone cannot control further spread of the virus,” said Shrestha. “Help from all concerned ministries, provincial governments, and local levels is required.”
Shrestha, however, would not say why the ministry failed to make the concerned agencies work in tandem even as new cases were reported by the day.
Instead, he said the ministry is holding a meeting to discuss the matter.
“We are holding a meeting with all concerned line ministries on Thursday to discuss the missing part,” said Shrestha.