The mosquito-borne viral disease of dengue has recently hit Sri Lanka hard. The Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health reports that the outbreak has claimed close to 300 lives—with the number of cases recorded at over 103,000 so far—double than that of 2016.

The unprecedented state of the outbreak in Sri Lanka has led to other problems. Dr Novil Wijesekara, head of health at the Sri Lanka Red Cross expressed, “Patients were streaming into overcrowded hospitals that are stretched beyond capacity and struggling to cope.”

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), dengue cases have increased 30 folds over the past 50 years. Up to 100 million infections occur annually in more than 100 endemic countries, including Sri Lanka. Dengue is prevalent during the monsoon season, typically from June to September. The monsoon rain and flooding brought forth breeding grounds for the mosquitoes, with recurring rain, stagnant water and poor hygiene worsening the conditions.

As such, the education ministry has instructed for a four-day school shut down for tens of thousands of volunteers – to join government officials and soldiers – to spot and eradicate mosquito breeding grounds. Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Red Cross have deployed volunteers who are working with government officials to go door-to-door – to educate the public about dengue and how to stop it from spreading.

“It will require a united front in support of the government's prevention and control programme and committed community action to tackle it," remarked Jagath Abeysinghe, president of Sri Lanka Red Cross.

Caution in Kerala

The tourist hotspot state in the south of India, Kerala was also badly hit by the dengue outbreak. In the past three weeks, there have been 21 deaths due to the outbreak, while more than 11,000 others were infected with the virus since May. Due to the sheer number claimed by the outbreak, the state is forced to buy new hospital beds and cancel staff medical leave.

“We are staring at a massive health crisis,” Kerala's director of health services, R.L. Sarita said. “There's a shortage of medicines and health professionals to tackle the situation.”

Kerala offers scenic coastlines and tea plantations, making it the leading tourist destination in India. However, similar to the situation in Sri Lanka, stagnant water left after torrential rains – which became the perfect mosquito breeding spot – worsened the spread of dengue. The authorities plan on insecticide fogging as a preventive measure, while also looking at setting up emergency medical camps at schools and temples to cater to the those in need.

Alarming death tolls in Malaysia

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, an alarming 122 deaths have been recorded so far for this year due to dengue. This number has forced Malaysia’s Health Minister Dr S. Subramaniam to urge the public to be on their toes and to do all that they can to combat the disease.

“Last year, we had 101,000 cases with 230 deaths. This year, we have already reached 50% of the figure, with 51,000 dengue cases and 122 deaths. This is worrying us,” he said.

He calls for co-operation from Malaysians of all levels. “If we can all work together, we can bring this situation under control. At every level, we have our own responsibilities. We cannot succeed if one party does not fulfil their responsibilities.” MIMS

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