Hospitals over­whelmed as Sri Lanka dengue toll nears 300

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Sri Lanka an­nounced yes­ter­day it was in­ten­si­fy­ing its war on dengue fever, with schools to shut across the is­land to help curb the un­prece­dented out­break of the mos­quito-borne virus that has claimed nearly 300 lives. The Red Cross also an­nounced it was scal­ing up its emer­gency re­sponse to the coun­try’s worst-ever out­break of the dis­ease as the num­ber of dengue cases topped 100,000. That fig­ure is nearly dou­ble the pre­vi­ous year, with doc­tors warn­ing hospitals were be­yond ca­pac­ity as medics strug­gled to treat a new strain of the dis­ease.

The ed­u­ca­tion min­istry said schools would shut from Fri­day for four days as tens of thou­sands of vol­un­teers join gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and sol­diers in tar­get­ing mos­quito breed­ing grounds. “In­struc­tions have gone out to all schools to­day to co­or­di­nate with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and look for any mos­quito breed­ing ar­eas in their im­me­di­ate neigh­bor­hood,” a min­istry of­fi­cial said. Troops have al­ready been spread­ing out across the is­land to help lo­cal coun­cils drain pools of stag­nant wa­ter to en­sure mos­quito lar­vae have nowhere to flour­ish.

Of­fi­cial fig­ures show 290 peo­ple have died so far this year from dengue fever, nearly four times the fa­tal­i­ties recorded in all of 2016. The num­ber of cases has soared to above 105,000, a sharp jump from the 55,150 recorded last year. About half those cases were re­ported from the is­land’s west, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal Colombo. “One rea­son for the dra­matic rise in cases is that the virus cur­rently spread­ing has evolved and peo­ple lack the im­mu­nity to fight off the new strain,” Dr Novil Wi­je­sekara, head of health at the Sri Lanka Red Cross, said in a state­ment.

The hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion, which has in­creased its bud­get by $300,000 to cope with the out­break, said in­fected pa­tients were “stream­ing into over­crowded hospitals that are stretched be­yond ca­pac­ity and strug­gling to cope”. Last week Aus­tralia said it was do­nat­ing $1.2 mil­lion to man­age pa­tients and help with re­search to con­tain the spread of the virus. Hu­mid mon­soon weather, stag­nant wa­ter from re­cent flood­ing and mount­ing piles of rot­ting garbage in Colombo have cre­ated per­fect con­di­tions for the rapid spread of mos­qui­toes. Au­thor­i­ties have blamed a waste man­age­ment cri­sis in the cap­i­tal for the un­usu­ally large num­ber of in­fec­tions. Sri Lanka’s main rub­bish tip col­lapsed in April, crush­ing dozens of homes and killing 32 peo­ple.—AFP

IN­DIA: A Ban­ga­lore mu­nic­i­pal work­ers fu­mi­gate a park in a bid to kill off mos­qui­toes in Ban­ga­lore.—AFP

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