The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Winter weapon in dengue war
- Rain and shine ideal for Aedes boom

Praying to the Nature gods ' rather than depending on government or civic officials ' could be the prescription to beat the mosquito menace.

Virologists warned on Thursday that only an early onset of winter could check the dengue epidemic.

The prevailing weather conditions ' sporadic rainfall and bursts of sunshine ' are said to be ideal for the breeding of mosquitoes, carriers of the dengue virus.

Officials at the Regional Meteorological Centre in Alipore on Thursday cast a cloud over the vector war with predictions of present weather conditions prevailing till pre-Puja, and all but ruling out an early winter.

'Intermittent rains will last till at least the first week of October,' said K.K. Chakraborty, acting deputy director-general at the centre.

A bulletin issued by the state health department pegged the number of confirmed dengue cases at 1,252, while the death toll remained 16. Calcutta Municipal Corporation then added 13 more to the list of dengue cases, pushing up the figure to 1,265.

Given the proportions the epidemic has assumed, officials and doctors admitted that beating dengue with vector-control measures alone is mission impossible.

So, hope nestles in the lap of Nature. 'Never before have we asked for the rains to stop and prayed for an early winter. But given the dengue preventive mechanism at hand, it is now all but impossible to check the epidemic,' said Apurba Ghosh, director of the Institute of Child Health.

'With every passing day, we are seeing more and more patients coming in. It seems we are sitting on a volcano about to erupt' We really hope winter is close,' added Ghosh.

Virologists at the School of Tropical Medicine and elsewhere in Calcutta share the view. 'The present weather is ideal for the mosquito to breed. The short bursts of rain cause water to accumulate and the sultry conditions provide the right temperature for the Aedes mosquito to multiply,' said a senior virologist at the School of Tropical Medicine. 'Our analysis shows that the current outbreak will continue till winter,' he added.

According to virologists, once the temperature drops, the entire cycle of mosquitoes, from the larvae stage to adulthood, is prolonged. The cold water does not allow them to breed and the eggs die a natural death.

'Even if the rains stop now and the sun starts beating down at a stretch, the situation is unlikely to improve, as people tend to stock buckets of water in the heat, providing mosquitoes with an alternative breeding ground,' observed Susovan Haldar.

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