With monsoon season around the corner, public health challenges for India are increasing. This time around, the problem will be two-fold: COVID-19, plus vector-borne diseases — particularly malaria, which follows a pattern of uptick in the monsoon season due to stagnant water all around, which makes for a habitable environment for breeding of mosquitoes that carry infection.
Several domestic and peri-domestic environmental factors, for example collection of open water, inappropriate water storage practices and inadequate sanitation promote breeding of disease-spreading mosquitoes.
Managing COVID-19 is a mammoth of a task, having absorbed most of our healthcare facilities. The unprecedented scenario has strained medical professionals, frontline workers, sanitation workers and civil society members. These members engage rigorously before the onset of monsoon season and continue throughout the season to reduce the breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes and create public awareness on preventing the disease.
The WHO and other health experts and organisations have raised concerns anticipating an increase in cases of malaria (in comparison to previous years) due to the health workforce’s capacity currently being used for COVID-19. Therefore, the public needs to ensure due safety and hygiene on their part to keep the numbers of malaria cases in check. In this regard, below are some essential tips and advises for maintaining domestic cleanliness and ensuring prevention in this malaria season:
It is common knowledge that mosquito bites cause malaria. Our precautionary measures from malaria revolve around:
1. Mosquitoes breed in both dirty and clean stagnant water. The appearance of such water puddles increases in urban and semi-urban areas, in the streets and outside people’s houses due to monsoon rains. It’s essential to either cover or regularly empty all artificial containers, domestic wells, overhead water tanks, and spaces with cavities such as roof gutters and freshwater pools. This water collection provides a favourable breeding ground for mosquitoes in residential areas, which later wreak menace on the citizens.
2. Engaging with representatives of urban local bodies and housing societies to ensure the implementation of urban by-laws at construction sites and nearby temporary human settlements is also very important.
3. In rural areas with a higher risk of malaria transmission and without insecticidal nets, motivating spray workers to spray only indoors during indoor residual spraying campaigns is crucial to prevent the spread of malaria.
1. People in areas known to have a higher risk of malaria should sleep under bed nets to prevent mosquito bites at night. In high-risk areas, where governments have already supplied long-lasting insecticidal nets, people should sleep under those instead of plain bed nets.
2. Wear full-sleeved clothes when going outdoors to workplaces and schools.
3. Use mosquito repellents (creams, patches and sprays) before going outside during evenings and repellent sprays, coils and vaporising mats while staying indoors.
At the time of this pandemic, as the caseload of COVID-19 patients severely strains our government healthcare workers, we as citizens should do our part of keeping public health in check.
By following these simple tips, we can do our part in keeping a check on malaria in our homes, localities and cities. Preventing and ultimately eliminating malaria is a massive task that can only be accomplished by citizens and governments working collaboratively.
As the spirit of this year’s World Malaria Day highlights, Zero Malaria Starts with Me.