Sri Lanka setps up its anti-dengue fight after fresh outbreak

Colombo, Dec 30 (EFE).- Sri Lanka stepped up its fight against dengue on Friday as the country recorded its highest number of infections since 2019, following a fresh outbreak in recent weeks.

Health officials recorded over 75,000 dengue cases this year, more than double the number of infections from last year, when around 34,000 people caught the disease.

An average of 200 to 300 cases were recorded each day in the past four weeks, prompting a two-day intensive drive to control the outbreak.

The authorities asked the people to destroy mosquito breeding areas found in their homes, workplaces, and public spaces.

Schools across the island were asked to check their premises and remove breeding spots before the new term began on Jan. 2.

“As this situation continues to develop, we are facing a huge risk of a large number of dengue cases being reported across the country,” the health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

In 2020, the country registered 31,000 cases.

Experts attribute fewer cases in the last two years to Covid-19 restrictions during which schools were closed.

“The reduction in numbers was seen in many other dengue-endemic countries because the Covid restrictions actually reduced dengue transmission,” the head of the global dengue program Neelika Malavige told EFE.

“Many children (in schools) are bitten by dengue-infected mosquitoes (and it) did not happen during COVID years because schools were closed,” Malavige said.

The progressive end of the restrictions coincided with unexpected monsoon rains that lashed the country this year, prompting a new wave of dengue infections.

Sri Lanka experiences two dengue seasons – April-July and November-February.

“It coincides with the rainy season. This is the pattern observed for many years. So, we are seeing the same this year,” Malavige said.

“So, we do have a big dengue issue in Sri Lanka, which is similar to what is seen in many dengue-endemic countries.”

For this reason, the alterations in the rainfall cycle caused by climate change aggravate the problem, promoting outbreaks of the disease out of season, as happened in 2022.

Experts say climate change is aggravating the dengue spread in many countries.

In a video message last week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said climate change fuels the spread of antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases like cholera, malaria, and dengue.

“With the increase in environmental temperatures, the vector densities in dengue-endemic countries increase, and also the mosquitoes expand into new geographical locations,” Malavige said.

“Increased temperatures also increase vector competence for transmission. So, climate change is likely to make things worse.”

The spike in infections is straining Sri Lanka’s below-par health system.

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