Floods, mudslides, and landslides triggered by monsoon rains in Sri Lanka have killed at least 202 people as of Wednesday, May 31, and an estimated 600,000 people are temporarily homeless. Additionally, aid organizations have warned that the thousands of survivors are at an increased risk of deadly diseases such as dengue fever. Despite the offer and delivery of food and medical assistance from multiple countries and organizations, many residents are still without access to water and electricity. Search and rescue operations are ongoing and the death count is likely to rise in the coming days.
Sri Lanka has already experienced a significant increase in cases of dengue in 2017: Sri Lanka's Ministry of Health reported that as of May 24, 52,015 cases of dengue fever had been reported in the country since the beginning of the year; over the same period in 2016, just over 19,000 cases were reported. According to other sources, at least 130 dengue-related deaths have been reported, a number that will likely increase as flood waters continue to cover large parts of the island.
The tropical depression affecting Sri Lanka since May 24 evolved into Cyclone Mora on May 29, which made landfall in Bangladesh on May 30. Shortly after landfall the districts of Ratnapura and Kalutara were the worst affected, with some 400 houses completely destroyed and 4200 others damaged. The southwest monsoon typically affects Sri Lanka in May and June. The Department of Meteorology issued a warning on May 27, stating that the southwest monsoon had established itself over the country, and warning naval and fishing communities to be vigilant. This year's torrential rains have been the worst in 14 years.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease mostly found in urban and semi-urban areas. Symptoms of classic dengue fever include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, nausea, and rash. Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) is a potentially deadly complication that is characterized by high fever, enlargement of the liver, and hemorrhaging. No specific treatment or vaccine is currently available. Be aware that aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) should be avoided as these drugs may worsen bleeding issues associated with the disease. Patients may be given doses of acetaminophen (paracetamol).
Individuals present in affected regions are advised to follow instructions issued by local authorities, particularly evacuation orders, and to keep abreast of weather forecasts. Remember that driving or walking through running water can be dangerous; 15 cm (6 in) of running water is enough to knock over an adult. Because floodwater may also contain wastewater or chemical products, wear boots and try to avoid any contact with the water; all items having come into contact with the water should be washed and disinfected and foodstuffs disposed of.
To minimize the risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases, use insect repellent, wear covering clothing, and consider sleeping under mosquito netting if in high-risk areas. If you develop a high fever during or after travel in areas affected by dengue, seek immediate medical attention.
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