Wednesday, 30 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH - Hospitals here diagnosed at least 30 people with dengue fever this month after the recent rains in the city, a Health Ministry official said.
As a result, the municipality has gone on alert to quickly clear floods and water stagnation caused by rain. The mosquito-borne viral infection is likely to increase as winter rains continue, said
Khaled Al-Zahrani, assistant undersecretary for Preventive Medicine at the Ministry of Health. He said those found infected have left hospital after treatment.
In 2006, dengue fever claimed the lives of 1,314 people. However, there were no dengue deaths in 2007, according to Nabeel Abu Khutwah, an environmental science specialist at King Abdul Aziz University and consultant to Jeddah's mayor.
"The number of cases is lower this year compared to last year when MOH reported some 70 to 80 cases monthly. This month, MOH also detected four cases in Jizan while Makkah was reported free of the disease," Al-Zahrani said.
In Jeddah, the disease is isolated to districts in the east. "The sewage lake that is located about 20 km east of Briman Bridge is the reason - it prevents efforts to control the spread of the disease," he added.
The dengue mosquito breeds in stagnant but fresh water such as rain-fed swamps.
"These locations are also a haven for several migratory birds that can also cause avian flu," said a source in Jeddah Health Affairs, who requested anonymity.
Khutwah said people in flood-prone areas are at risk of catching the virus.
Dengue fever is believed to be the most dangerous mosquito-borne disease after malaria. Worldwide, there are around 40 million cases of dengue fever each year, and several hundred thousand cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever. More than 16,000 people died because of the disease worldwide in 2007.
The mayoralty's laboratory, which has detected 21 varieties of mosquitoes in the city, found that the second most common variety in the sewage lake area is the Aedes aegypti.
Jeddah Municipality's emergency plan to deal with flooding includes insecticide and pesticide spraying operations, said Abdul Ghaffar Azhari, deputy vice mayor for Cleanliness Services. The implementation of the plan includes several measures, such as securing the necessary pesticides.
"We will mobilize all insect prevention workers for a field survey immediately after rainfall," Azhari said. "We are also using GPS to locate clusters of water." "Three cleaning companies will implement the plan by working three shifts a day to clear water from the locations identified," he said.
"The Municipality has three classifications for water swamps. The first - rated dangerous - are swamps that cannot be cleared and so must be dealt with by spraying operations."
The second classification involves swamps that can be drained out to a large extent. Remaining water will be periodically sprayed with chemicals until such time the water is fully cleared. The third level - least dangerous - is running water, which can be controlled and chemically treated accordingly.
"Spraying process will focus on water storage basins and foliage areas plants, construction sites, industrial areas, rain water canals, and parks," Azhari said.
The dengue virus is contracted from the bite of a striped Aedes aegypti mosquito that has previously bitten an infected person. It cannot be spread directly from person to person. The symptoms are sudden onset of headache, fever, exhaustion, severe joint and muscle pain, swollen glands, and rash. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a more severe form of the illness and can be life-threatening or even fatal. Because dengue is caused by a virus, there is no specific medicine or antibiotic to treat it. For typical dengue, the treatment is purely concerned with relief of the symptoms.