Never underestimate the power of one tiny mosquito! Something the world is learning the hard way. A conservative estimate would say that Dengue affects at least 3.9 billion people across a 100 countries ( source: http://www.who.int/denguecontrol/epidemiology/en/). Let’s understand what this global disease is and how we can avoid it.
There are four Dengue virus strains that cause Dengue Fever. These viruses are transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. This mosquito is recognized by the white stripes on its legs. It thrives in urban areas and almost exclusively feeds on humans. It is also active throughout the day. All it takes is a single bite from this mosquito to spread the Dengue virus!
Once bitten by an infected mosquito, the patient may suffer symptoms similar to the flu. These could include:
• High fever combined with rigors, chills and headaches
• Backaches and severe joint pains
• Nausea and vomiting
• Rashes and pain behind the eyes amongst others
In extreme Dengue cases there can be severe bleeding due to a drop in platelet count. There could also be a multi-organ failure!
What can we do to prevent Dengue from affecting us and our loved ones? The short answer is – Keep the mosquitoes away. Almost everybody knows how that is easier said than done. But the fact is that it must be done. So here are a few tips on how you can combat Dengue.
1. Avoid Stagnant Water: The Aedes mosquito breeds in stagnant water. Sometimes we don’t realize how much stagnant water we accumulate in and around our homes. Here are a few common problem areas to look out for.
a. Excess water in flower pot trays.
b. Water accumulating on the surface of flower pots can be avoided by loosening the soil.
c. Water from coolers should be cleared regularly even if it is not being used.
d. If containers of water cannot be emptied, keep them covered.
e. If water has been collected put a bit of kerosene in it to avoid further breeding.
f. Clear leaves from gutters and drain pipes in the garden and on the roof.
2. Use mosquito repellents 24*7: There are a number of natural repellents that can be placed around your house. Plants such as Tulsi and Lemon Grass might help. Oils like Eucalyptus, Neem and Citronella are also effective. Burning camphor is said to help as well.
However, chemical repellents are known to be the most effective (Especially those that contain a chemical called DEET) DEET is usually available in a concentration of 10-30%. A higher percentage of concentration will provide protection for longer. DEET is toxic and must be used carefully. You can also spray insecticide in dark corners of the house such as under the bed and behind sofas and curtains.
It is important to note that some repellents are designed not to kill mosquitoes but to make it difficult for them to find you. So, just because you see them flying around you, does not mean the repellent is not working.
When sleeping, use a mosquito net that has been treated with insecticide. Mosquitoes can bite through nets. The insecticide will repel them.
If air conditioning is available, use it (day or night). Also put screens on your doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering at any point.
3. Dress Right! : Believe it or not what you wear and the makeup you use can all affect how attractive you are to mosquitoes. If you dress up for an evening with a in a nice black dress or suit and wear your favourite perfume, you might just be the perfect feast for mosquitoes!
Avoid darker clothing. Mosquitoes are attracted to it. Instead try wearing shades like beige or light grey. Wear comfortable clothing that covers your skin. Long sleeves and trousers are recommended.
Mosquitoes are attracted to strong scents such as those from perfumes and lotions. If you plan to use sunscreen lotion, apply it before applying the mosquito repellent.
In extreme conditions, use a hat with a net to protect yourself and tuck your pants into your socks.
4. Anti-Mosquito Fogging: This is usually done in localities by the local governing body. If it is done in your area, make sure the people doing it cover any stagnant water bodies around your home. If it is not regularly done in your area, try and reach out to the local administration and your neighbors to do it. Awareness about Dengue and regular fumigation of the area are the most effective ways to combat Dengue. You can also fumigate just your house. Find the right pesticide and preferably get professionals to help you.
Dengue can be fatal if not treated effectively. This disease needs to be controlled and each one of us needs to help in our own way.