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Paediatrician Explains Why Risks Related To Vector Borne Diseases Shouldn’t Be Avoided Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The entire nation has collectively been battling the deadly Coronavirus that has claimed millions of lives globally. The pandemic has changed the course of our everyday life and has demanded attention towards revised hygiene practices. As India grapples with the pandemic, the threat of vector borne diseases has also been emerging. While it is difficult to navigate the way forward, what can be said without doubt is that there will have to be comprehensive safety protocols in place to ensure overall protection.

The months beginning from May to September are those that witness a rise in mosquitoes. According to the data provided by the National Vector Borne Disease Control Program (NVBDCP) all over India, there have already been 18,568 cases of malaria reported until the month of March, 2021. India reported a total of 181,831 cases in 2020. The states with the highest number of malaria cases in 2020 were Chhattisgarh with 36,459 malaria cases, followed by Orissa with 41,738 malaria cases, and Uttar Pradesh with 28,423 cases.

With the monsoons just around the corner, there is possibility of a surge in mosquitoes owing to the widespread availability of breeding grounds. As the country has been focusing on the pandemic, we need to ensure that vector borne diseases are not neglected in the bargain. As fumigation practices had witnessed a hindrance owing to the lockdown, it is crucial to take precautionary measures at an individual level and use repellents like Goodknight, HIT, etc., to avoid further spike in cases. This is especially important because even if the fumigation practices resume, fumigation will only eliminate the adult mosquitoes and not the ones that are breeding in stagnating waters.

Children are more susceptible for contacting vector borne diseases. In accordance with the guidelines stipulated, although children going outdoors to play has reduced, we cannot restrict them for too long. When children start to go out to play, we recommend that they wear full sleeved clothes to reduce the area of exposure for mosquito bites. Secondly, children can be protected from mosquitoes with the use of repellents that can be applied on clothes that are made available by reliable brands such as Goodknight Fabric Roll-on and patches, as it is better to have repellents applied on clothes than on the skin. Apply these on the back so that there is no direct contact with the skin and there is no threat of the child putting it in the mouth.

To evade what could be yet another wave of diseases, some precautionary measures will have to be observed at individual capacity. It begins with the check of your surroundings to see if water has been stagnating anywhere. It is important to regularise checks of water tanks to ensure that our surroundings do not become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. To prevent this from happening, get your water tanks examined by professional authorities to ensure that they are clean and covered. With the unprecedented lock-down upon us and the lack of house help, people might forget about cleaning their garages, balconies or terraces where there is a possibility of water stagnation.

For an overall protection, it is important to ensure that you are protected from mosquitoes both indoors as well as outdoors. Contrary to popular belief, mosquitoes don't only arrive during the night. We are used to employing repellents late in the evening or at night however, malaria mosquitoes are active between the hours of 9 PM to 5 AM whereas dengue mosquitoes peak biting periods are early in the morning and in the evening before dusk. This is why it is important to ensure protection throughout the day even while you are indoors with mosquito repellent formats such as liquid vaporisers, coils, incense sticks, etc. For those who use incense sticks to repel mosquitoes, it is important to be aware of which ones to use. The market has spurious incense sticks that are harmful for health and cause several problems because of their pesticide laced formulations. It is important to use branded products that are legally approved so that you don't harm yourself while repelling mosquitoes. If you are using liquid vaporisers, it is important to use effective ones that ensure eliminating mosquitoes from all corners of the room.

It is crucial to understand that while we focus on individual hygiene measures such as washing hands at regular intervals or wearing masks to contain the spread of the pandemic, we have to extend these measures to our surroundings as well so that we are protected against vector borne diseases.

This article has been contributed by Dr. Mukesh Sanklecha, Paediatrician

Story first published: Tuesday, June 1, 2021, 18:00 [IST]