Royal raided like kassipu den, says principal

by Suresh Perera
The Royal College principal Friday reacted angrily to the swoop on his school by the CMC’s anti-dengue squad saying that health officers last week raided his school as if it "was a kasippu den".

"Two medical officers came to inspect the school. That’s all right, but later they raided the premises as if to haul in kasippu," Royal College’s principal, H. L. B. Gomes said.

Colombo Municipality’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam said health teams found more positive dengue breeding grounds at Royal College than at other schools in Colombo.

Asked whether the inspection of the school was on par with a "kasippu den raid", as claimed by Gomes, Dr. Kariyawasam said if the principal has a complaint he can direct it to the Health Minister.

Asked about reports that positive dengue breeding grounds were found by health officers within the school premises, Gomes replied that he had read about it in the newspapers. He replaced the telephone receiver saying the parents of students conducted a shramadana and that the school will be reopened next Tuesday.

Royal College and Buddhist Ladies College were ordered to be temporarily shut down on a Cabinet decision as the dengue threat reached alarming proportions.

Gomes however asserted that he was not informed about the temporary closure of his school following the dengue outbreak.

Since January this year, 25 persons have died of dengue. The number of suspected cases reported during this period up to last Friday was 3,765.

"We are not in a position to identify exact locations, but dengue-related deaths have occurred at the Lady Ridgeway hospital (4), Colombo National hospital (5), Sri Jayawardenapura (4), Ragama Teaching hospital (4) and government hospitals at Kurunegala (2), Jaffna (3) and Batticaloa (3)", Assistant Epidemiologist, Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe said.

He said that most of these were ‘suspected deaths’ which had not been confirmed, but taken as dengue as reported directly from hospitals. There is no other way to gather information other than from hospitals as other sources are not reliable.

He said Colombo topped the list of suspected cases with 954 followed by 683 in Gampaha. More than one-third of the cases were from these two areas.

Dr. Kariyawasam said the health task force and the Colombo municipality jointly decided on the schools and government institutions to conduct random checks. Among the other schools inspected were Ananda College and Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya, he explained.

Asked whether the dengue threat in Colombo has been countered to some extent following the ongoing cleaning-up operations, Dr. Kariyawasam said the checks on sanitation are continuing and more has to be done.

"The control and prevention of dengue is the responsibility of everybody. It’s a social issue and a social responsibility," Dr. Abeysinghe pointed out.

Children of fifty schools were educated on the deadly dengue menace under the Suwa Shakthi programme which was launched from Kelaniya to Negombo, says Reckitt Benckiser’s consultant Roshani Fernando who spearheads the exercise.

Dr. Abeysinghe said it is wrong to blame government hospitals for dengue deaths because people who settle for the comforts of private hospitals ultimately get themselves admitted to state medical institutions when the condition worsens. Some of them die there. That’s how all dengue patients die in government hospitals and perhaps none in the private ones, he added.

In addition to dengue prevention, Suwa Shakthi also targets infection control which has already covered 30 schools. The second phase of the dengue control programme will begin next week with a target of 80 schools from Kalutara to Galle, Mrs. Fernando said.

Dr. Abeysinghe said it’s possible for a person to be affected by the dengue more than once because there are four different types of viruses. A vaccine for the prevention of dengue now being developed by the WHO will take another five years.

He said a lot of people are ready to highlight dengue but do nothing to prevent it. A system to fine offenders is good but who will fine the municipalities and other government institutions breeding dengue mosquitoes, he queried.