A classic example for alacrity in Sri Lanka’s health sector
by Kiyanna Staff
February 10, 2017

Sri Lanka is a less than 0.01% low prevalence country in terms of HIV spread.  The first HIV infected person was reported in Sri Lanka in 1987. Since then, approximately 2,500 cases have been reported and 401 AIDS-related deaths have been recorded in Sri Lanka up until 2015, according to the National STD/AIDS Control Programme.

However, if the virus was to enter the key population networks like female sex workers, men who have sex with men, ‘beach boys’, and injection drug users that engage in behaviours that increase their risk of exposure to HIV, the country situation may dramatically change in relation to HIV prevalence.Thus, continuous and collective efforts towards prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in Sri Lanka is vital.

Following is a classic example for the  continuous monitoring, vigilance and alacrity in the health sector.

In September 2016, World Health Organization (WHO) certified Sri Lanka on having eliminated malaria, a mosquito-born disease which threatened the existence of the humans in tropical climates for centuries.

But the health authorities were alarmed last week as a new malaria-spreading mosquito which is not easy to eradicate was identified from Mannar in the Northern Province.

Even at the beginning of the new millennium, 200,000 malaria patients were reported from the island annually. However, by September 2012, no locally spread malaria cases were reported from Sri Lanka.

WHO monitored the situation for three years before it certified Sri Lanka a malaria-free country.

In Sri Lanka, malaria was caused by two types of parasites, Plasmodium Falciparum and Plasmodium Vivax. The disease is spread from human to human via the mosquitoes. The parasite enters the saliva of the mosquito and it is infected to another man when the mosquito bites.

The parasite must be eliminated to eradicate the disease. The mosquito that spreads the disease still lives in Sri Lanka but they cannot spread malaria because humans have no parasites in their bodies. A malaria patient who arrived in Sri Lanka from India with disease was identified last year. He was promptly isolated and the parasite was destroyed by medication.

Four types of malaria-carrier mosquitos live in Sri Lanka. Of them, the Anopheles Culifacies is the worst carrier. Anti-Malaria Campaign says that it is very difficult to control this mosquito which is spread most parts of India.  Even though malaria has been eradicated, Anti-Malaria Campaign maintains the monitoring island wide.

A new mosquito specie was identified in a field visit in Northern Province by a monitoring team. They inspected Thalaimannar Island which had not been inspected for a long time. The team comprised of entomologists Gayan Dharmasiri and Yashan Kanishka Perera. The Tamil people displaced to India during war and who are now returning are being settled in Thalaimannar these days. The officials inspected the environment of the island which is being fast populated. Several mosquito larvae were identified in a well in front of a house and the entomologists brought the samples to Colombo. The larvae were grown in the labs and they were released to a safe environment.

Entomologist Mihirini Hewavitharana identified that the mosquitoes were a kind of urban insects which cannot be easily controlled. They were carriers of malaria too. She informed about this to the director of the Anti-Malaria Campaign Dr. Hemantha Herath. The identification was verified by senior entomologist Nathpal of India.

Three teams of Anti-Malaria campaign were dispatched quickly to Thalaimannar Island to destroy the mosquitoes and their breeding grounds. District Secretary and the Regional Health Director of Mannar assisted the operation.

based on a story written by Sapumal Jayasena (Mawbima newspaper)
Photos: Kelum Chamara

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