Urban Planning Vector borne diseases

Mosquito control: Devil is in the detail

Dear Municipal Commissioner,

My relationship with your good office is like that of an obsessed lover who keeps writing with hope of making one simple sentence reach across, but fail miserably, only to write again!

Only difference is that, what I want to make you and everyone involved with dengue-mitigation understand is not something romantic but a simple fact, i.e. dengue mosquito does not lay eggs IN clean water.

If my editor allows me, I would like to dedicate this entire column space to write the above in largest and boldest possible fonts, as it hold the key to dengue-mitigation and yet, no administrative stake-holder in your office seems to understand its implications.

I can’t blame you, as when I downloaded the “India Fights Dengue” application from the health ministry (which must be getting technical assistance from the best experts of the country), it also wants me to believe that dengue mosquitoes “breed in clean water”.

So, while your well-meaning staff has already spread more than 3 tons of insecticide in July, my gut reaction tells me that we are going to be hit by a wave of vector-borne diseases with a far greater force than last year because no one seems to have cognized this simple detail of mosquito life-cycle.

As I have used this column to talk about mosquitoes so often that I may end up boring my regular readers, but, as you are new in the office, I plan to risk my editor’s fury and try again.

Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads dengue and other viruses doesn’t lay eggs IN clean water; it STICKS its eggs ON the side of the water container, on or slightly above the water line.

As these eggs are perfectly capable of remaining potent for months without water, emptying of containers, or celebrating “dry day” as AMC proposed last year, makes no difference to them. Every time the water comes back, eggs will be resurrected. So, while you spend huge amount of money to spread awareness and insecticide; by missing out on important details, it remains a wasted effort.

If we revisit the problem with more accurate understanding of mosquito life-cycle, all that is needed is a simple change, i.e. ask people to not just empty water containers, ask them to scrub the containers, especially the area near the water-line so eggs are dislodged and removed.

If you wish, you can also use this information to develop another ploy to hit the mosquitoes hard. People can be encouraged to keep water-filled earthen pots (with couple of dead leaves) in corners of their homes. As Aedes aegypti prefers not-too-clean water with a bit of organic residue that its larva feeds on, such pots can attract them to lay eggs. All that people need to do is to empty these pots regularly and scrub them. Lured this way, Aedes aegypti is likely to get fooled into using these deathtraps and fall prey to the power of knowledge. This can work very well, provided people are careful enough to maintain the schedule of emptying and scrubbing once every week.

I am writing this to you because you are an administrator working in tropics and hence you are facing an insect wilier than even the politicians you deal with. Mosquito is the greatest threat known to humanity and you have a city to manage that has been completely blind to its destructive power.

I request you to accept the need of vector control as the biggest administrative challenge and get into understanding issues connected with it at micro-level. Mosquito is a devil that hides in the detail.

(DNA: 31/7/16)

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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