If the images of places officials from the malaria unit in Phuentsholing visited are anything to go by, there is a lot of work to be done to contain another outbreak of dengue in the border town.
Phuentsholing is crowded, the vegetation thrives around this time and maintaining the surrounding clean, without water clogging, is a huge task. But then, these are the most effective and the cheapest measures to not let mosquitoes breed.
The simple logic is there wouldn’t be dengue if mosquito breeding can be controlled.
However, it seems like we know how to kill the mosquitoes, but not how to get rid of the indifference that is the main cause of the problem. Unlike last summer, the border gate is sealed and movement restricted. The porous border and the free movement of people was a problem last year when Phuentsholing recorded 77 percent of the 5,489 cases in the country.
Only three cases have been reported so far. The town is better prepared with an army of volunteers, including youth, to create awareness and remove potential mosquito breeding grounds. Surveillance systems have also been put in place.
The message of the awareness is simple and clear. Destroy the breeding sources and keep the surroundings clean. Last year, the Phuentsholing hospital staff, together with DeSuups, visited each and every household to inspect potential mosquito breeding sites and to destroy them.
The problem is that either the message was not effective or residents are waiting for volunteers to come and clean their surroundings again.
The thromde had decided to penalise people if they fail to keep their surroundings clean. Severing water connection was one. It would be the most effective punishment. Living in Phuentsholing without water in summer would be difficult. Have the thromde officials started doing that? Or, are they waiting for more cases to implement the rule?
At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is draining all the resources and energy, indifference of the residents, the property and business owners could add more pressure on our prevention efforts. How long can we leave simple things like cleaning our surroundings to the government? It is blatantly being irresponsible.
Our resources would be stretched should there be another outbreak. It would derail on-going efforts by the frontliners who have been successful in stopping community transmission of Covid-19.
It is not late. We have only three, not so serious, cases. Dengue is not contagious. An infected human becomes the main carrier and multiplier of the virus. Residents cannot identify if the mosquito coming into their room is an Aedes or Anopheles but they can identify potential breeding sources.
The responsibility should not be left to the thromde or the hospital. Residents and property owners, businesses that are potential breeding grounds like automobile workshops and many others should take part in keeping the city safe and free of dengue.