Required: Community participation to stop Dengue spread

Sewage water stagnanted on the newly asphalted road, and road is fully damaged at BTS (BMTC) Road, near MICO back gate, Wilson garden, in Bengaluru on Sunday. Photo by S K Dinesh

For most people, the word ‘Dengue’ would probably conjure up images of impoverished tropical towns with open sewers, clogged drains and terrible waste management. But, despite not being a tropical town or impoverished, our city neatly fits the bill as the symptoms exist here.

Nahal Ahmed, who moved to Bengaluru this year to study Commerce never imagined that he was affected by Dengue when he started showing symptoms of a headache and fever. “The virus started with a really bad, extremely unbearable headache, followed by high fever and chills,” he recalls.

He could see his hands and feet erupt with red dots. “The rash started to spread throughout my arms and feet.” Due to a lack of awareness about the disease, it was a week before he got the illness checked by a doctor.

Eventually, he was bedridden for more than two weeks. “It wasn’t until I consulted a doctor and had a Complete Blood Count (CBC) Test taken that I knew I had Dengue,” Ahmed notes. As scary as that may sound, Nahal actually got off lucky on this count; the lack of early diagnosis could have easily led to the disease manifesting into a deadlier form, making it much harder to treat.

This kind of cavalier attitude towards the illness is becoming increasingly common. This not only puts the individual at a greater risk, but also puts a great strain on medical facilities. Many hospitals and blood blanks across the state are running out of platelets that Dengue patients need to be transfused with.

Safarulla Kasmi, a UI/UX designer based out of the city, was terribly surprised when he was diagnosed with Dengue: “I have been living in Bengaluru for more than a year and it never occured to me that I could get Dengue, but I did and can’t imagine anything worse.”

He narrates the ordeal: “It started off with a fever that I dismissed early on. But soon enough it got so bad, my whole body hurt and it was covered in rashes. I was in no condition to take myself to the hospital and my friends had to. I also lost out on a week’s work.”

Safarulla’s experience should remind everyone of Dengue’s another victim: productivity. With symptoms that last 2-7 days usually and the large number of Dengue cases in the city, there is a large and quantifiable loss of productivity across various sectors.

Due to the intermittent and unpredictable rains of the monsoon, stagnant water often collects in many places such as open containers, providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

“I have been really worried about the increasing number of people coming down with Dengue around me. Every time it rains, I ensure that water doesn’t collect anywhere around and in my house,” says Mathew Kurian, an associate business development manager at a healthcare start-up.

Kurian is also worried about the garbage and drain water that collects all around his area, wondering what other diseases would begin spreading.

Terrible drainage and garbage-disposal systems have become a hallmark of Bengaluru and are a major contributor to the spread of diseases. Many feel it would be a miracle to expect that these issues would be solved before Dengue and other vector-borne diseases break out.

The onus of preventing and controlling the outbreak of such communicable diseases, unfortunately falls on the shoulders of the community.

The community must take preventive measures to check the spread of the disease, as Leeandra D Souza, a technical associate puts it.

She elaborates: “With the city’s exploding population, we can’t always wait for the authorities. Commmunities should ensure that their localities aren’t breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”

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