Coronavirus is the new entrant in the existing repository of dangerous viruses and it has shaken us to the core. However, even as we keep our focus on containing its spread, we must not forget that we are continuously battling the mosquito menace worldwide.
Mosquitoes continue to infect a large number of population worldwide and as per estimates, kill hundreds of people. This makes mosquito the most deadly creature. Bill Gates, in 2014, declared it to be more dangerous than lizards and snakes as it claims numerous victims.
He observed in a tweet that, “mosquitoes kill more people in one day than sharks kill in 100 years“.
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Ever since the seeds of colonial expansion in tropical countries of Asia and Africa were laid, the issue of disease management has been relevant. “We advocate segregation from the native.” This blunt statement was made in Sierre Leone in 1900 by British colonial medical officer Dr William Prout.’ It was supposedly carrying a medical emergency concern viz. the susceptibility of the British colonial officers to contracting deadly Malaria disease while coming in contact with the infected ‘native’ population.
Segregated residential arrangements over a period of time became the norm in British colonies and ‘hill stations’ were identified and spruced up to cater to the civil servants. In a paper (June 1988) titled Pretext or Prophylaxis? Racial Segregation and Malarial Mosquitoes in a British Tropical Colony: Sierra Leone, authors Stephen Frenkel and John Western argues that Britishers embarked on a clear cut policy of “racial residential segregation” in 1901.
This was occasioned by the discovery of Anopheles mosquito as the vector of Malaria by Ronald Ross of Indian Medical Service. This policy entailed the prophylaxis procedure and led to the construction of ‘Hill Stations’ to keep the colonial officers segregated and protected from the disease. However, as per the study, the reason to adopt segregation here was not just medical but was also racial. It is known that natives were already affected with malaria while colonial officers were not.
Mosquito is an old enemy and it should not be taken lightly. August 20 is observed as World Mosquito Day to commemorate the significance of the discovery by Ronald Ross. On World Mosquito Day, 2020 we can surely look towards remedies and steps to mitigate the threat posed by mosquitoes in the 21st century.
Malaria, Dengue, Zika, and many more mosquito induced diseases pose a great threat to humanity. Recently, a new species of mosquito has been discovered in Spain and it has the potential to cause immense harm. Reportedly, this species can carry infectious viruses such as dengue, chikungunya, and the West Nile virus.
Undeniably, the risk is big. Naturally, then our response to battle the mosquito menace should be big too. Researchers and policymakers are waking up to the dangers of climate change as it is understood that global warming may push the malaria incidence in hitherto unaffected areas.
Malaria No More (MNM), an NGO has entered into a tie-up with IBM and its subsidiary, The Weather Company for the ‘Forecasting Healthy Futures’ initiative. The initiative is oriented around improving health outcomes and accelerating India’s progress against deadly mosquito-borne diseases.
Apparently, India has declared a national programme to eliminate malaria by the year 2030. As per a future prediction floated by this agency, the incidence of malaria is unknown beyond 1,000 ft in the Himalayas but this could change with global warming as it settles in the near future.
So now with global warming, the ‘Hill station’ may not prove to be a safe retreat from deadly malaria or yellow fever. Ronald Ross would have agreed to this.
Governmental initiatives largely depend on logistical ease and status of financial coffers, we as global citizens also share the burden of eliminating the threat of diseases caused by different species of mosquitoes. We can adopt simple methods to keep mosquitoes at bay.
There is a breeding pattern associated with mosquitoes. We can interfere with the same. The WHO advocates an integrated approach and better management and control of man-made sites where malarial mosquitoes may easily reproduce – such as water wells and boreholes – may help reduce malaria breeding close to human settlements.
Basically, the idea is to engineer changes and modifications in man-made structures and human settlements to reduce the availability of vector habitats. This approach can be coupled with the use of chemical-based mosquito larvicides to eliminate larvae breeding.
Many preventive protocols can be followed by each one of us. This can include:
Mosquito is the single largest killer across continents and for centuries we have battled with diseases caused by an innocuous mosquito bite. It is time to create safe habitats and repel the breeding of mosquitoes. British colonizers may have created separate ‘residential zones’ and the reasons were racial though passed on as medical. Any such remedy in the present context will serve us no good. Rather, it will lead to misconceptions and propagation of prejudice.
There is also an urgent need to reverse global warming as the same can accelerate the spread of the malaria vector. There cannot be any last word on mosquito menace as of now. We should not let our guard down and should remain alert and vigilant to the health hazard caused by mosquitoes.