Indonesia: Locals engage in communal efforts to beat back dengue outbreak

Andi Hajramurni and Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post 11 Feb 16;

Residents in dengue fever-prone regions are intensifying their collective efforts to prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne disease, which has killed dozens of people and hospitalized thousands of others since the beginning of the year.

In the South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar, Eko, a local resident, said he and other residents in his neighborhood now cleaned up their environment once a week upon learning that dengue fever, locally known as DBD, had been spreading in the province over the past couple of months.

The effort has so far delivered positive results as nobody in Eko’s neighborhood has contracted dengue fever over the past few weeks.

“We thoroughly cleaned up ditches to help the water flow so that mosquitoes would not lay their eggs there,” said the 31-year-old man, whose house is located on Jl. Batua in downtown Makassar.

Didi Hernald, 37, another local resident, shared a similar story. He also told his family members to be cautious with the presence of mosquitoes in their house.

“When we find mosquitoes in our house, we try to kill it with mosquito repellent or fans. Alhamdulillah (thank God) my family and neighbors have not been infected with DBD,” he said.

Home to some 1.4 million people, Makassar is relatively secure from the disease, with the local health agency recording only 32 dengue fever cases in January.

As of Wednesday, 11 out of the 24 regions in South Sulawesi, including North Luwu and Pangkajene Islands (Pangkep), have declared their dengue outbreaks extraordinary occurrences after the disease claimed the lives of 14 people and hospitalized more than 1,800 others during the first five weeks of the year.

A similar situation has also occurred in other regions, including in Gorontalo, Tangerang in Banten and Gianyar in Bali.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito spreads dengue fever. After a person has been bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito it takes four to 10 days for symptoms to manifest. The most common symptoms are high fever, severe headache, nausea, swollen glands and joint pain.

The disease can be deadly when a patient experiences plasma leakage, fluid accumulation, respiratory distress, severe bleeding or organ impairment.

With the absence of a vaccine to protect against dengue, vector control is the only method available for the prevention and control of the disease.

Another approach will also soon be tested in Yogyakarta, as a group of Gadjah Mada University researchers with the Eliminate Dengue Project (EDP) are scheduled to release in June mosquitoes that carry a bacteria called Wolbachia into the region in an effort to eliminate dengue fever.

The mosquitoes will later spread the bacteria, which can suppress the development of the dengue virus, through breeding.

While alternative approaches still need some time to be tested for their effectiveness, the government has called on citizens to maintain cleanliness and to eliminate Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which also carry the Zika and chikungunya viruses.

In Pangkep, the local Health Agency recorded last month 269 suspected DBD cases. 52 were declared positive for dengue fever. One patient did not survive.

Agency head Indriati Latif said Tuesday the figure continued to decrease thanks to intensive fumigation and the collective efforts from local residents to clean up their environment.

“In the last two days, no new dengue fever patients have been admitted to the hospital,” said Indriati, adding that there were currently 13 DBD patients being treated at local hospitals.

In Papua, the provincial Health Agency reported that 47 cases of DBD had been found in the region since last month, 20 of which were found in the provincial capital of Jayapura.

In Semarang, Central Java Health Agency head Yulianto Prabowo underlined the importance of eradicating mosquito nests en masse to halt the breeding of either Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus, the vectors of DBD, Chikungunya and Zika.

Central Java has recorded 15 fatalities due to DBD out of the 1,080 cases of DBD reported.

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