In an effort to increase the fight against vector-borne diseases, the health officials in Telangana have decided to implement ‘dry days’ in Hyderabad government schools for 10 Fridays. Around 18 to 20 lakh school children will be educated on how to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue, malaria and chikungunya.
“Owing to illnesses and deaths caused by mosquitoes of late, Mosquito Prevention Day or ‘Dry Day’ will be observed for the next 10 Fridays in schools starting from November 22, as decided by the education department secretary. All schools are requested to clean places prone to attract mosquitoes, such as stacks of papers, coolers, plants, dust bins, and water tanks. Stagnation of water must be avoided,” read a notice issued by the Telangana State Education Department.
As part of the programme, children will take 15 minutes every Friday to clean up the areas around their school. They will be taught to keep areas dry and clean to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.
“These diseases are seeing a drastic rise. Reducing mosquito populations would be a big step towards preventing such diseases,” said B Janardhan Reddy, Telangana State Education Department Secretary, who introduced the programme.
He stressed that teaching children methods to control mosquito breeding and spreading disease would help spread awareness to a significant part of the population.
“Earlier, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) had introduced a questionnaire on its app to assess people’s awareness of such preventive measures. This helped us understand that we needed to focus on controlling the mosquito population. By introducing this programme in schools, we hope it will help in the efforts to tackle vector-borne illnesses,” states Seshu Kumari, secretary to the Director of the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), which is implementing the programme in schools.
Over 5,000 cases of dengue fever have been reported in Telangana since January. The state government has been criticised for not taking enough safety measures. In the first week of November, the health department came under fire after four members of one family died due to suspected dengue fever.
Dengue fever is caused by one of four strains of the dengue virus. It is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. When a person contracts the infection and recovers from it, they develop immunity against that particular strain of the virus. There is no vaccine or cure against the virus, as the result of which, treatment is largely based on the symptoms that an individual develops.
Malaria, on the other hand, is caused by a parasite belonging to the Plasmodium family spread by the female Anopheles mosquito.
Earlier at the start of the year, health officials in the country spoke about the hurdles they faced in eliminating malaria due to an increase in the number of drug resistant cases of malaria being seen. A report released at the time showed that over 300 cases were resistant to commonly used drugs while another 20 cases were resistant to the last line drug of choice in malaria, artemisinin. This drug is derived from the sweet wormwood plant.