COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION vis-à-vis role of a civil society and massive awareness campaign with media partnership are the key factors in tackling diseases like chikungunya that have acquired epidemic proportions, opined experts at a consultation organised by Madhya Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (MPVHA) here today.
Joint Director (health) Dr S K Shrivastava, former AIIMS (New Delhi) Director Prof L M Nath, Professor in Community Medicine MGM Medical College Dr Sanjay Dixit, Prof and HoD of Microbiology Choithram Hospital and Research Centre Dr D S Chitnis, Asst Prof Department of Microbiology MGM College Dr Anita Mutha and entomologist Sushma Choure from State Malaria Control Society (Bhopal) addressed the consultation.
In his introductory note, MPVHA executive director Mukesh Sinha dwelt upon the need to reach out to maximum number of people with the message. “The role of NGOs becomes most important in spreading awareness as volunteers are the only people who can reach out to the maximum population within a short duration.”
Dr Shrivastava said, “People’s behaviour during epidemic-like situation changes, they are ready to listen to whatever is being said. So this is the right time to sensitise people towards spreading awareness and involving them in fight against the disease and its causes.”
He stressed that even though chikungunya affects thousands together, it is not fatal. “But it does not mean we should be complacent. We have to be alert all the time. The increased awareness and preventive measures - all with community participation - would help avert other diseases too,” Dr Shrivastava, who also moderated the technical session, later said.
Dr Nath, who was the first speaker at the technical session, clarified that chikungunya was self-limiting. The occasional death reported was not due to chikungunya, but due to the wrong way the patient was treated.
Stressing on changing personal habits, Dr Nath said, “People themselves become hosts for the Aedes mosquitoes, that spread the viral disease,” and went on to explain the ways in which mosquito breeding in and around our houses can be avoided. Another thing he highlighted was the use of medicine to the affected persons.
Elaborating on the role of government machinery, Dr Nath said, “Dissemination of authentic information with media partnership is most important. Secondly, there should be short-term and permanent measures to eliminate breeding sites like fogging, release of gambusia (gappi) fish in water bodies etc.” He also advocated use of natural repellents and asked to avoid insecticides.
Taking the point further, Dr Dixit said, “one thing that can be done by anybody is keeping the chikungunya patient inside a mosquito-net always so that we leave no scope for the mosquito to carry the virus. Breaking the breeding cycle is important.”
Dr Chitnis said there was no specific age group for this disease. The youngest case at Choithram Hospital was that of a five-day-old child and the oldest person was a 75-year-old-man, he said adding, “Even the infant survived this disease, which shows that nobody dies of chikungunya.”
While Dr Mutha went on to elaborate technical aspects related to chikungunya and the various tests involved. The talk by Choure of the Malaria Task Force was informative as she spoke about practical things to be done from her field experience.
Apart from experts and media persons, a large number of representatives of NGOs associated with MPVHA from 12 districts also attended the consultation held at Hotel Amar Vilas. The concluding session discussed what would be the role of volunteers attending the consultation and what message they would take back. MPVHA president Prof B K Nilose proposed the vote of thanks.
Simple tips to prevent and fight chikungunya
1 The word chikungunya has no connection whatsoever with chicken, the word is derived from an African word from Makode
language which means `to bend or twist’.
2 Know the disease and spread awareness.
3 The Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which spreads chikungunya, bites humans in sheltered areas and indoors.
4 Likely breeding places at home – earthen pots, gully traps, open drains inside or outside the premises, roof gutters.
5 Get your polyester mosquito nets impregnated from the District Malaria Officer.
6 Use gambusia fish if there are wells, unused tanks etc in the area.
7 If possible, use traditional repellents like burning of `kapur’ (camphor), cow-dung cakes and dry eucalyptus leaves to drive away the mosquitoes.