Globally, dengue kills around 100 people every day. While the world’s media focuses on combatting coronavirus, we must ensure the lack of attention doesn’t allow dengue to win through. If you live in one of the more than 125 at-risk countries, there are simple steps you can take to help protect your home and your family against the virus. Before we look at those, let’s start by quickly reminding ourselves how Aedes mosquitoes live and breed, and how the dengue virus spreads.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes – the primary dengue vector – live inside and outside the home. Their favourite breeding ground is containers with clear, stagnant water, such as old tyres, empty food cans, flower pots, plastic bottles or jars that collect rainwater. They lay their eggs in these. It then takes just eight days for the egg to hatch and the larvae to transform through the pupae stage to an adult mosquito.
You can catch dengue if an infected mosquito bites you. A mosquito becomes infected with dengue by biting an infected person. The parasite develops inside the mosquito during the next five to ten days. An infected mosquito can then pass the virus onto any person it bites. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes bite throughout the day, especially during early morning and late afternoon.
The most effective way to prevent dengue spreading is, therefore, to avoid mosquito bites and to stop mosquitoes breeding. These simple steps will help:
- Cover bare skin with loose clothing; mosquitoes can bite through tight-fitting clothes. Long sleeves, long pants, closed shoes and hats are ideal.
- Use insect repellants containing DEET, following the instructions on the label. Apply 30 minutes after sunscreen. Reapply after swimming or if you’re sweating a lot.
- Sleep under a mosquito net, ideally one that has been treated with insecticide.
- Fit fly screens on windows. And if you have an air-conditioner, use it instead of opening windows and doors.
- Use mosquito coils or electric insecticide vaporisers to kill any mosquitoes that do get inside. Always follow product instructions.
- Drain away standing water in containers such as buckets, tyres, bottles, jars and cans. Destroy and dispose of them if possible.
- Change the water in pet dishes, birdbaths, flowerpots and vases every day. Wash the containers out weekly with a brush or sponge to remove any mosquito eggs.
- Cover large cisterns and containers with a tight lid. If they don’t have a lid, cover with a mesh that has holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
- Put small fish, such as guppies, in large vessels with standing water that are difficult to drain; they like to eat mosquito larvae.
- If you get a fever, rest in a screened or air-conditioned room, or under a bed net. If you get bitten by a mosquito, you could pass your dengue on.
Do Aedes mosquitoes live in your neighbourhood? What are you doing to keep them at bay? How are you protecting yourself and your family from dengue?