Can Folk Media be an Effective Way to Aware People of Dengue?

At present, the total number of dengue-positive cases in Assam is over 800 and Karbi Anglong is the worst-hit district to be affected by the disease with cases of over 600.
Himadri Kalita

Dengue is a vector-borne disease that is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. These mosquitoes lay eggs on the inner, wet walls of containers with water, above the waterline due to which people are directed to cover such areas to prevent them from breeding.

For the past few months, as it is the season when the risk of dengue is high, Assam and other states of India are suffering from this disease with surging rise in cases.

At present, the total number of dengue-positive cases in Assam is over 800 and Karbi Anglong is the worst-hit district to be affected by the disease with cases of over 600.

Meanwhile, Kamrup (Metropolitan) district has reported 81 positive cases till November 15.

Speaking about preventive measures taken to tackle the surge in cases, Joint Director of Health Services, Kamrup (M), Dr. Kandarpa Kumar Das said, “The preventive measures to control vector-borne diseases are taken all year round including malaria, Japanese encephalitis, dengue and other vector-borne diseases. But we are more cautious during the seasons when the risk is higher.”

“To prevent these diseases, we use larvicidal spray for spraying it around drains in order to destroy the mosquito larvae, we conduct fogging in the evening to kill the mosquitoes which come out for breeding, and we take initiatives to spread awareness on how to prevent mosquitoes from biting us. Although everyone is aware of the measures that would help them to prevent themselves from mosquito bites however, it is necessary to remind them,” he added.

The health department organizes awareness meetings to make the locals aware of the preventive measures. In the awareness meeting, the department informs them about how they can prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

The department also apprises them about symptoms of the disease so that they can be aware of it and go for testing.

The preventive measures for dengue as per National Health Mission Assam are:

  • Make sure there is no water stagnating in and around your house, in open containers, discarded coconut shells, unused flower pots, etc.

  • Always use a mosquito net (LLIN) while sleeping, even during the day. Dengue mosquitoes bite during the day.

  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved clothes.

  • If you feel any dengue-like symptoms, consult a doctor immediately. Don’t take medicines without a doctor’s consultation.

The following are the symptoms of Dengue as per NHM:

  • High Fever

  • Joint Pain

  • Headache

  • Redness of the eyes

  • Pain behind Eyes

  • Rash on Skin

  • Muscular Pain

  • Bleeding from Gums

A task force meeting was conducted on November 15, where officials from various departments related to health such as doctors, officials from PHE, schools authorities, and many more, to discuss how to move forward to tackle the situation.

The health department conducts fogging usually in places where dengue case is reported as the risk is more in those areas, the health department said.

They said that every day at least four teams are sent for fogging in different places and in a day the teams conduct fogging in as many as 25-30 locations in Guwahati. They give priority to areas where waterlogging issue is more as these mosquitoes lay eggs in those areas.

For awareness, apart from meetings, they also distribute leaflets through Asha workers, Anganwadi.

Although it is said that folk media is an influential medium to make people aware of a social or health cause, however, it is rarely used to spread awareness.

If we are to consider the dengue in districts of Assam, Karbi Anglong is the worst hit by the disease with over 600 cases. As the cases are surging, the government has decided to shut down educational institutions in the district. However, it is not the solution to tackle and control the spread of the disease as these are spread through bite of mosquitoes rather than person-to-person.

The closure of educational institutions will lead to more loss in education as the students are already behind for lockdown during the covid outbreak. It is noticed that if any health-related issues, flood or any other incident happens, the government decides to shut down educational institutions, business establishments, and government and private offices as though it is the only solution.

Even in urban areas, there are people who lack basic awareness or few who are not educated enough to understand. In these kinds of issues, government should opt for folk media. Several universities in Guwahati organize street plays on various social-related issues in which students take part. The government can collaborate with these universities to create an awareness program for the people.

People usually ignore leaflets, or awareness meetings. However, if they gets a chance to watch street play, which is rare in urban areas, they would watch it enthusiastically which will be effective in making them aware.

Meanwhile, spraying of larvicidal spray should be done regularly and not only in those times when vector-borne diseases are on the rise so that it is controlled at an early stage.

There are specific areas where dengue cases are mostly on rise every year. Government should identify these areas and try to educate and make the locals of the area more cautious about the disease. Although most people are cured of the disease, however, there are instances where people have lost their lives.

Generally, people assume it to be a normal fever that will be cured after taking medicines such as paracetamol, Dolo, etc. which can turn fatal in no time. It is necessary to create awareness programs for them before the mosquitoes start breeding and the danger they can cause to them.

The government needs to focus on solutions that do not impact education or businesses. As it is a disease that is faced by the country every year, usage same old measures will not be effective instead, it will hamper the studies of the students.

Collection of data, taking suggestions from the locals of those specific areas and coming out with a solution will be most effective.

Governments can collaborate with various universities which provide a subject on Communication for Development. For instance, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at Cotton University provides assignments on this subject where students have to choose a location and try to empower them to bring solutions to their own issues which they have addressed by themselves.

If a region is worst affected by vector-borne diseases almost every year, then the government can collaborate with them and students can visit those regions to find out what solutions will be best to tackle these diseases.

In this way, government can come up with new solutions so that there are lesser cases of such diseases in the state.

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