By Paul Spiekermann, M.D., a member of the Rotary Club of Westport, Connecticut, USA
Rotary, with its army of volunteers, is uniquely suited to help prevent the spread of dengue fever, a painful and debilitating disease that infects 50-100 million people a year, mostly in tropical and subtropical regions.
The dengue virus is transmitted from person to person by mosquitoes. While 80 percent of people infected develop only mild flu-like symptoms, the virus causes excruciating muscle and joint pain, high fevers, chills, sweats, ache behind the eyes, a rash, and a general malaise in the other 20 percent. Recovery takes up to six weeks and may be followed by periods of depression. In some cases, the disease results in internal bleeding and shock that leads to death.
There is no vaccine and no treatment. The most realistic way to reduce incidence is preventing transmission.
In Indonesia, we have used a new non-chemical technique to interrupt the life cycle of the mosquito, with the help of a Rotary Foundation global grant. The Rotary Club of Solo Kartini is collaborating with the Municipal Public Health staff and a local community to educate and instruct homeowners on the dangers of standing water and steps that can be taken to prevent the mosquitoes from breeding.
One element of the technique is making the mosquito more visible in its larva state. The typical Indonesian home contains a waist-high cement tub for showering and cooling. Gray mosquito nests and larvae in the tubs are almost impossible to spot against the surface of the gray cement. Using funds from the grant, white ceramic tiling was installed on the interior of the tubs, making the larvae easy to spot.
Solo Kartini Rotarians, together with community social workers, instruct homeowners thoroughly on emptying and scrubbing infested tubs twice a week, closing the lid on water containers, and burying waste that can collect water. The Rotarians oversee the monitors who are paid a small stipend to visit homes weekly, checking for compliance and keeping records.
Eradicating dengue fever requires a local target by target approach best served by club-developed projects with global grants. Close contact with communities is key to success with this “from the bottom up” Rotary effort.
This program presents a practical and environmentally friendly way to eliminate the virus, at the same time collecting measurable results and sustainability data.
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