In the first six months of this year over 12,000 people have been infected with dengue and 75 have died in Sri Lanka, raising fears that the disease is reaching epidemic proportions.
But Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena said that the government has taken several measures against the spread of the disease by providing adequate facilities and medicines in public hospitals. The Sri Lankan government has also taken several steps to reduce breeding grounds for mosquitoes; it has passed strong laws that resulted in the arrest of 53 people a few weeks ago for keeping unhygienic surroundings. "Most of the arrested people have to appear in court and pay a fine. This is done mostly to impress upon the people on the need to maintain clean surroundings so that the spread of dengue can be minimized," police spokesman Ajith Rohana said, adding that they have already inspected thousands of houses in the capital Colombo, which has the highest dengue infection cases of 3,333.
The government has also deployed around 10,000 army and police personnel to assist Public Health Inspectors (PHI) to keep urbanized areas clean.
Doctors here said that children often experience symptoms similar to those of the common cold and gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea), and generally have less severe symptoms than adults, but are more susceptible to the severe complications.
Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is an infectious tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash that is similar to measles.
In a small proportion of cases the disease develops into the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs.
This means that dengue is a disease hard to detect with health officials regularly warning that symptoms should not be confused with the common cold or other relatively benign conditions. Dengue is transmitted by several species of mosquito within the genus Aedes, principally A. aegypti.
Treatment of acute dengue is supportive, using either oral or intravenous rehydration for mild or moderate disease, and intravenous fluids and blood transfusion for more severe cases.
The virus has four different types; infection with one type usually gives lifelong immunity to that type, but only short-term immunity to the others. Subsequent infection with a different type increases the risk of severe complications.
As there is no vaccine, prevention is sought by reducing the habitat and the number of mosquitoes and limiting exposure to bites.