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Army called in to contain dengue spread

A worried Sri Lankan government has mobilised the army, navy and air force to assist civic authorities in curbing a wave of dengue fever spreading across the country, claiming at least 160 lives and infecting more than 21,600 people till now.

world Updated: Jul 23, 2010 01:42 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

A worried Sri Lankan government has mobilised the army, navy and air force to assist civic authorities in curbing a wave of dengue fever spreading across the country, claiming at least 160 lives and infecting more than 21,600 people till now.

The Colombo city – a city of less than a million people -- and its adjoining areas are worst-hit by the disease. Government hospitals are overflowing with dengue patients; children have been badly affected.

Chief Medical Officer of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam told newspapers said that close to 20 dengue patients were being identified per day in the Colombo city -- not taking in to account those privately treated or those getting ayurveda treatment.

``We are taking this situation seriously,’’ Kariyawasam told IRIN news agency. Teams of city workers were going door-to-door to inspect homes and schools for possible breeding grounds for the vector-borne disease, he said.

On Friday, hundreds of personnel from the army, navy and air force will join police and personnel from the defence ministry’s Special Task Force in clearing water-logged and dengue mosquito-breeding areas in Colombo and across Sri Lanka.

"At least 300 personnel from the army alone will be leading the civic authorities and local people in clearing places where mosquitoes could breed. Instructions have come from the government that all departments should work together," army spokesperson, Brigadier Ubaya Madiwela told HT.

Sri Lanka's Dengue Control Unit, established in 2005, has dispatched 300 medical officers countrywide to monitor the situation

While Sri Lanka has a good record in tackling Malaria, it’s miserably failed in controlling dengue. The hemorrhaging fever has spread unabated since heavy rains lashed large parts of the island in May and June and continues sporadically in July.

According to the IRIN, in 2009, 35,007 cases were reported nationwide – an increase of more than 400 percent (6,555) from 2008.

Worryingly, in January alone this year, 4,672 cases were reported against 1,279 cases a year earlier. At least 346 people died of dengue in 2009 across Sri Lanka.