Sri Lanka in dengue crackdown10th July 2009
Authorities in Sri Lanka, battling a rise in dengue fever cases, have said they will send people to prison if they fail to clear up standing water.
Dengue is transmitted by mosquitoes, who use puddles and pools of stagnant water in which to breed.
More than 160 people have died from dengue fever in Sri Lanka so far this year, more than double the number who died last year.
In the capital Colombo, and outside the city, officials are now warning people that they face stiff fines of up to US$220 or even a six-month jail term if they fail to clean up mosquito breeding grounds in the next two weeks.
The government has also said it is now importing a special kind of bacteria from Cuba which kills the mosquito larvae.
Mosquito breeding grounds are being sprayed with the preparation, which kills the mosquitoes in their larval stage.
Dengue is most rampant during annual monsoon seasons, and mosquitoes take advantage of large puddles left in the wake of heavy rainfall to lay their eggs.
Officials are increasingly alarmed about the rapid spread of the influenza-like disease, which is caused by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito.
The mortality rate in relation to the infection rate is very high, according to government medical official Sankalpa Marasinghe.
He said 14,750 people had been infected so far this year, with 163 confirmed deaths from dengue.
He said the outbreak was not confined to a particular place, but spread out all around the island, and doctors feared that different strains of the virus were emerging and could mutate.
New efforts were being made to enforcing existing laws and regulations and reduce the effects of mosquito breeding in the environment.
According to health officials, people are too careless about cleaning out their properties and eliminating standing water.
The Cuban bacteria were used to target large marshy areas of land. But the majority of mosquitoes bred in puddles of water as little as 5 mm in depth, Marasinghe said.
Even excess water in plant pots could be pressed into service for breeding purposes, he said.
Dengue fever usually begins suddenly with a high temperature, rash, severe headache, pain behind the eyes and in the muscles and joints.
The disease is also nicknamed "breakbone fever" because of the joint pain. Nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite are common.
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