Health authorities battling what they fear could be the worst epidemic of dengue fever in the country's history are blaming the outbreak on warmer temperatures, irregular rainfall, urbanisation and poor waste management. While these are contributing factors, the situation will not improve until individual communities cooperate by wiping out the breeding sites of the potentially deadly striped mosquitoes responsible for this modern-day plague.
And that means ensuring they know the best way to do it, which is where city authorities as well as the Education, Public Health and Interior ministries come in. With infections running at up to three times higher than last year's level, these agencies and ministries have a vital role to play in creating public awareness of the extent of the problem and then overseeing the measures needed to bring it under control. In particular, they should target construction sites and car parks with their vast pools of stagnant water. These are obvious breeding grounds for mosquito larvae and are rarely cleaned up.
Many cases go unreported because victims know there is no cure. Yet the number of people known to have fallen victim to dengue this year has now exceeded 10,000 in Chiang Mai and the northern border areas and passed the benchmark figure of 100,000 infections nationwide, with more than 100 known fatalities. Some hospitals have created special areas in which to care for patients and authorities estimate total medical expenses as being over 2 billion baht. Retailers say sales of mosquito nets and repellent have surged. The problem is that the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries dengue, usually bites in the daytime when nets are not being used and has become resistant to popular repellants.