Malaria, dengue breeding grounds up
PANAMA. Cases of malaria and dengue in Panama have fallen 46 percent from last year’s level but the number of mosquito breeding grounds...
PANAMA. Cases of malaria and dengue in Panama have fallen 46 percent from last year’s level but the number of mosquito breeding grounds has increased due to the accumulation of rubbish and people insisting on putting plates under plants and leaving containers full of water uncovered.
In 2008 there have been 592 cases of malaria, that is 504 less than for the same period last year. Dengue cases to date total 758 against 2900 last year.
Dr. Oscar González, director of Vectors Department the Minister of Health, said that over the last few years the constant fumigation and destruction of mosquito’s breeding grounds has brought positive results, especially in jungle and urban areas where they are most common.
“This year we have entered a security zone according to our control graphic.
We are fighting very hard to eradicate the Anopheles mosquito from areas where malaria is endemic such as Darien, the Kuna Yala region, Bocas del Toro and Veraguas.
Currently we are working with the inhabitants, teaching them how to prevent the creation of mosquitoes breeding grounds, as well as fumigating their houses, giving them insecticide coated mosquitoes nets and the adequate medicines for those individuals who are already infected,” said Gonzalez.
Around 500 inspectors and hundreds of collaborators have the job of searching for mosquitoes breeding grounds, fumigating whole villages and giving medical attention to the population affected by dengue and malaria.
It is estimated that the Ministry of Health spends around $2 million a year combating these diseases.
According to Dr. Gonzalez one of the biggest obstacles his department encounters in the fight against the mosquitoes is the population that seems reluctant to cooperate with the inspectors during the fumigation operations or elimination of breeding grounds.
“The inhabitants of the affected areas appear not to grasp that the extermination of mosquitoes is the only way to fight dengue and malaria,” said Dr. Gonzalez.
For years we have tried to educate them, but it is a continuous struggle.
“ We need to change the culture. People keep throwing paper cups that have the potential of becoming a breeding ground and we need to address that behavior.”
The director added that the more problematic areas in Panama City are Bethania, San Miguelito, Tocumen and San Francisco.
Colon is also a problem area
In these areas, while the fumigation operations are in place the number of mosquitoes goes down, but when suspended they increase mainly because the inhabitants keep aquatic plants or put containers underneath their plants that collect water.
“We will continue fighting and hope that the population does not have to go through an epidemic of the deadly hemorrhagic dengue, before they follow our advice. “
That is what we are trying to prevent.
“The dengue is very dangerous, because its symptoms are very similar to the those of the flu, that is headaches, fever and joint pain. The danger is that once a person is infected, he could get the hemorrhagic that is potentially lethal,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said that they are organizing groups in the different ministries, the private industries and civil organizations so they check their environment and are aware of their surroundings.
“We urgently need to prevent the creation of mosquito’s breeding grounds
“Otherwise eventually these insects will develop a resistance against insecticide and then we will be in real trouble,” he concluded.