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Why dengue is spreading like wildfire; what precautions can we take

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Dengue is an inevitable fallout of the monsoon season, with waterlogged areas fast converting to breeding grounds for certain mosquito species. Using bioinsecticides to treat the water is one of the better ways to deal with the dengue spreaders.

Why dengue is spreading like wildfire; what precautions can we take
An outbreak of the dengue has gripped several parts of the country, with Uttar Pradesh being the worst affected state. The viral fever has already claimed over 60 lives in the state’s Firozabad district, with a significant portion of infections seen in children. Haryana, Indore, Mumbai and Delhi have also reported increasing cases of dengue. Local authorities have launched inspection programmes to locate and destroy mosquito breeding grounds.
The deadly viral disease is spread by the female Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquito species, of which the former is more prevalent in India. According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 400 million individuals get infected with dengue every year. With one out of four individuals falling sick, 100 million show symptoms and nearly 22,000 die each year from the disease. The disease is prevalent in areas with a large population of mosquitoes, mainly in the tropics and subtropical regions.
Why is dengue spreading so rapidly?
Dengue sees a huge uptick in the number of cases every year around the monsoon season. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, like most other mosquito species, requires stagnant water to reproduce. However, unlike many other species of mosquito, this breed can lay eggs even in dry locations, with the larvae being ‘sealed’ till water is available. Thus the mosquito species is able to lay several thousand larvae in anticipation of rain, when they hatch and develop into mature mosquitoes, thus leading to sudden jump in their population.
With record-breaking rain in short spells in several districts this monsoon, floods and waterlogged areas have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
The dengue mosquito prefers to stay close to human habitats and is often found in homes. In areas where water supply is erratic, like Firozabad, residents often collect and store water in containers, jars, cans, pots and other vessels, which provide easy and safe breeding grounds.
Safeguards against dengue
The way to stay safe is to clear out the breeding grounds for mosquitoes. By removing container habitats for mosquitoes, the population of the pests can be significantly controlled. Removing vessels with water, ensuring there is no stagnant water, and looking out for spaces where water can pool and not evaporate are important community-wide measures that can be taken.
But it may not be feasible to get rid of water-filled containers, especially in places of erratic water supply.
In such cases, insecticides can be a viable option. While chemical insecticides can be effective in significantly eradicating mosquito populations, they also carry significant downsides and can be toxic to other organisms. Bioinsecticides provide a safer yet effective option for treating water to kill mosquito larvae. They are usually a combination of biological agents along with certain stabilisers that are designed to only affect mosquitoes.
Bioinsecticides and common sense
The most effective bioinsecticide for mosquitoes is Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), a naturally occurring bacteria in the soil, that can kill mosquito larvae. Bti is available in various forms, solid ‘dunks’, pastes, powders, solutions and more, and can be directly introduced to water in specified amounts to kill the mosquito larvae present. Bti is a green label pesticide that does not harm any mammal, and Bti-treated water remains non-toxic for humans and other animals alike.
Other bioinsecticides like methoprene can also help.
Other measures like using mosquito nets during the night, especially around infants, wearing full sleeve garments, and limiting outdoor exposure in areas with stagnant water are effective preventive techniques as well.
It is advisable to get the dengue blood tests done as soon as individuals report symptoms associated with the virus. The viral severity increases exponentially after infection. There is ”no standard protocol” for treatment of patients who have contracted a double infection of COVID-19 and dengue.
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