Sri Lanka fights Dengue outbreak amid health, economic crises

Colombo, Nov 3 (EFE).- The number of Dengue fever cases in Sri Lanka is rising dramatically amid unusual monsoonal rains, the health ministry said Thursday, as the country grapples with health and economic crises.

According to the National Dengue Control Unit, some 63,548 cases have been reported so far this year, three times higher than the total registered in 2021.

The outbreak is mostly centered on Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, where more than 15,000 cases have been detected.

The Colombo Municipal Council warned that the increase in cases in the island nation is mostly concentrated in the most vulnerable areas of the Sri Lankan capital, such as the suburbs, as well as in the eastern province of Negombo, northern Jaffna and southern Weligama.

Sri Lanka usually experiences two dengue spikes per year: one between May and July, and the other from November to January.

The current surge in cases is tied to the unusual monsoon rains soaking the country, Ruwan Wijayamuni, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Colombo, Dr. Ruwan Wijayamuni, told Efe.

In an attempt to curb the outbreak, authorities have warned the island’s more than 20 million inhabitants to take care of their homes and pay special attention to cleaning up places where mosquitoes can breed.

“We are encouraging people to look after their premises and clean out mosquito-breeding places. We are also conducting mosquito flogging- indoors and outdoors (…) and are continuing to inspect residences and other places to find mosquito breeding spots,” Dr. Wijayamuni said, adding that legal action was being taken against home or business owners with mosquito breeding spots.

He added that authorities are spraying against mosquitoes, and will take legal action against owners of homes or businesses with mosquito breeding sites.

But even thorough cleaning does not completely prevent people from contracting the disease.

This is the case of two of W. Kumari’s sons, who got dengue despite taking several precautions.

“One of them had complications. He was hospitalized for nearly a week. We are doing everything we can to make sure our garden and house are clean. But sometimes that’s not enough either,” the mother of three told Efe.

She says that households have also adopted traditional methods such as using neem oil or citronella oil as a repellent. “I don’t know how effective these methods are, but there’s no harm trying.”

The increase in infections is straining the country’s failing health system, which lacks sufficient materials and infrastructure to tackle the spread of dengue due to the economic meltdown it has been dealing with for months.

“We are seeing a 300 percent increase in dengue cases. However, facilities in hospitals have shrunk. We don’t have enough dengue test kits,” the president of the College of Medical Laboratory Sciences (CMLS), Ravi Kumudesh, told EFE.

Sri Lanka is facing the worst economic crisis since its independence from the British Empire in 1948, caused in part by heavy indebtedness, misguided government policies, and the impact on tourism of the Easter attacks and the coronavirus pandemic. EFE


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