Fighting Dengue: Facts and Strategies for Communities

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By Jonathan Monis,

Nathan is nurse, an epidemiology student, a health advocate and a geek.

Dengue was originally a seasonal infectious disease, with peak outbreaks only during rainy seasons. However, changes in climate have accelerated the spread of dengue throughout the world, even outside their usual season.

This year, dengue has been appearing often in local headlines. The number of dengue cases in Metro Manila doubled to 10,487 cases from January to the first week of August this year,even though the number of cases nationwide during the same period has significantly declined.

Dengue is a public health burden and a community concern. Therefore, the efforts of each resident are crucial to prevent dengue from becoming an epidemic. Initiatives from the local government are equally vital to instill awareness, facilitate empowerment and involve communities towards healthful behavior and environment.

There have been previous efforts to prevent the occurrence of dengue. However, they were mainly non-aggressive efforts such as defogging. This method had to be repeated at frequent intervals with high costs and variable effectiveness. Aedesaegypti, the mosquito carrying the hemorrhagic virus, prefers to rest inside houses, usually in sheltered places where drifting insecticide spray droplets do not easily penetrate when the aerosol is applied outdoors, especially if householders do not comply with requests to open their doors and windows.

The effectiveness of defogging varies. It doesn’t totally kill all mosquitoes. It temporarily drives mosquitoes away to other communities. It actually increases the risks to nearby communities. It has no effect on larvae, so the number of mosquitoes will quickly rise again. It’s not environment-friendly either, and poses additional risks to people, especially children, inhaling the chemical fumes.

An additional problem is that community residents tend to trust this measure too much, and it makes them more complacent with regard to taking other actions to prevent dengue. They tend to forget that initiatives to prevent breeding sites and to protect themselves are more critical.

There is a need for more effective, efficient, eco-friendly and sustainable strategies to facilitate the empowerment and involvement of people dealing with dengue. Collaborative efforts from different stakeholders are imperative for reaching the goal of mitigating dengue in communities.

Projects that integrate health promotion models and more responsive health system are crucial in stopping the spread of dengue. Promoting positive health behaviors through creative and cutting-edge health education campaigns would make residents initiate preventive strategies on a personal level.These measures include the use of repellants or mosquito nets.Measures for household and community levels also apply, such as altering the environment and clearing all potential breeding sites. People should take steps every time signs and symptoms of dengue occur because critical actions should be enacted as early as possible.

A more responsive health system, through clinical protocols and a referral system, will make the work of health workers more efficient and structured. That, in turn, will minimize dengue-related infections and deaths.

Tips for Preventing Dengue

  • Store pails under shelter, and keep them upside-down.
  • Avoid using plant plot plates. If they must be used, remove all standing water, and then clean and scrub the plate to remove any mosquito eggs and larvae.
  • Loosen soil from the potted plants.As the surface of the soil hardens, stagnant water may accumulate.
  • Make sure that scupper drains are not blocked and flowing freely. Avoid placing things over the drains, such as potted plants.
  • Change gully traps with non-perforated ones then install anti-mosquito valves if available. Cover infrequently used gully traps.
  • Rainwater can accumulate in bamboo pole holders if left uncovered. It can become a breeding sitefor mosquitoes.
  • Do not place receptacles or any objects that can hold water beneath or on top of any air-conditioning units.
  • If you are going out, particularly in places with a high incidence of dengue, use mosquito repellent.
  • Educate other people on ways to prevent dengue.
  • Every other day,clean and scrub the inner sides of vases and change the water. Wash the roots of flowers and plants thoroughly as well,as mosquito eggs can stick to them easily.
  • Once a week, clean scupper drains and gardens. Clear all fallen leaves. Remove water from bottles, tires, and other objects and places that are potential breeding sites.
  • Clear any stagnant water in your air cooler unit.

Dengue Prevention Checklist.National Environment Agency (2002).

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