Suicide with DDT: DDT can kill humans

February 13, 2017

Label on a can of DDT. BigPictureEducation image

Label on a can of DDT. BigPictureEducation image

It’s a footnote, but an important one right now, when the anti-science, anti-environmental protection, anti-learning wing of American culture again gears up to attack the memory of Rachel Carson, the science findings that led to the ban on crop use of DDT in America, and upon health care and medicine and science in general.

DDT kills. DDT can kill humans.

Daily Beast, usually a sober-enough, accurate enough online news organ that has absorbed the old print magazine Newsweek, recently carried a column by Paul Offitt, repeating the hoax claims that DDT was banned contrary to science, by a conspiracy of power-made environmentalists, that DDT is harmless to humans, and that had DDT not been banned, millions of humans would have survived malaria.

Long-time readers of this organ know each of those points is false, hoaxes ginned up to impugn science, leftists, environmental protection, or just for the hell of it. Offitt’s is just the first of several of these hoax-based articles which will cause us all grief this spring, I predict.

Probably the most difficult-to-explain hoax claim is the one that says DDT is “harmless” to humans.

DDT usually doesn’t come in a dose great enough to kill humans outright.  That should not be mistaken for safety. DDT was known to kill early on, and as it turns out, it has become a method of human suicide across Asia. Unfortunately for policy study, those cases rarely get reported in science journals.

Some medical researcher should study the issue, to determine how widespread DDT suicide might be, what physicians do to save a person so poisoned, if they ever can. And I often wonder, is any suicide by insecticide reported as “DDT,” though it may be some other toxin?

I stumbled across the story of a DDT suicide in India some time back. It was a short report. I found no follow ups.

Some time ago I was surprised to hear an author talking about DDT suicide, which she had mentioned in one of her stories. The story was published in The New Yorker, “A Sheltered Woman.” The magazine interviewed the author, Yiyun Li; Li explained why she mentioned DDT suicide in the story.

This week’s story, “A Sheltered Woman,” is about a baby nurse named Auntie Mei, a Chinese immigrant who has established a solid career for herself looking after infants and their breast-feeding mothers in the Bay Area. When did the character of Auntie Mei first come to you?

A year ago, while rummaging through old things, I found a notebook that I had bought at a garage sale in Iowa City when I first came to America—I had paid five cents for it. The notebook was in a good shape; though it remained unused. A character occurred to me: she paid a dime and asked if there was a second notebook so she did not have to have the change back. Such greed, the character said, laughing at herself. From that moment on I knew I had a story.

Auntie Mei keeps a distance between herself and her charges, rarely staying longer than the first month of a baby’s life and establishing an orderly regime in the households she enters. Yet her disciplined approach starts to falter when she’s faced with Chanel, a disgruntled young mother, and her son. Why is Chanel able to unsettle Auntie Mei? Did you know this would happen when you starting thinking of the way the two characters would interact?

Auntie Mei’s life has a reliable pattern: the moment she enters a house to take care of a new set of mother and infant she can already see the exit point. But any pattern is breakable. When I started the story, I knew that the situation would change for Auntie Mei. Chanel, by not being ready to be a mother, forces Auntie Mei into a dilemma: When the baby in her charge is not loved by his parents, should she step in and offer her love? And what danger would she find herself in if she does not suppress that love?

You said in a recent interview that your characters don’t struggle as immigrants but are concerned rather with internal struggles and with the problems they’ve brought with them from China. That’s certainly the case here, where Auntie Mei is haunted by the legacy of the two women who raised her, her mother and her grandmother, who rejected the men in their lives. Does Auntie Mei’s childhood reflect anything in particular about Chinese-village life? Could you imagine a similar situation had she grown up in America?

Part of Auntie Mei’s childhood reflects Chinese-village life. For instance, her mother threatened to kill herself with DDT. DDT was banned in the United States in 1972, but, when I grew up, it was widely used in China, and, in the countryside, suicides by DDT were common. The peculiarities of Auntie Mei’s grandmother and mother would have been less readily accepted had she grown up in America, or even in a big city in China. However, Auntie Mei’s struggle is not specific to China. I imagine it’s a situation that can happen in any country. Our knowledge of history in general is limited, but at least there are historians who strive to enlighten the public. The murkiest history is within one’s own family, and oftentimes things remain unexplored and unsaid, and what is said may be misrepresentation or even distortion. Auntie Mei is not alone in her struggle with a shadowy past. In fact, I wonder how many people are truly exempted from the past.

One more anecdote, but one we may put stock into. DDT suicide is a thing. DDT can kill humans acutely, when the dose is great enough. Statements that DDT is harmless are inaccurate.

It’s a good short story, by the way.


Fact sheet for World Malaria Report 2016

December 16, 2016

A woman shows the mosquito net that protects her and her family from malaria transmission, in India. India remains the world's top DDT user, but is switching to nets in an effort to bring malaria rates down and set up malaria eradication before the end of DDT in 2020. WHO image.

A woman shows the mosquito net that protects her and her family from malaria transmission, in India. India remains the world’s top DDT user, but is switching to nets in an effort to bring malaria rates down and set up malaria eradication before the end of DDT in 2020. WHO image.

World Health Organization publishes an annual World Malaria Report, with the year appended to the title. It summarizes the state of the fight against malaria worldwide, recording progress and setbacks.

In the tally of progress we get a clear indication of what is needed to continue or increase that progress, with the ultimate goal of controlling malaria to the point it poses no great economic risk, or health risk, to any nation, or better that human malaria is eradicated.

World Malaria Report 2016 is 184 pages, shorter than some previous reports but packed with figures and history, some of which requires greater background to understand completely.

For example, the 2016 publication notes that about 412,000 people died from malaria in 2016. This is a shocking figure. Most of the news coverage of the report mentions this death toll in the first paragraph.

It’s too many deaths. But it’s a more than 50% reduction in deaths from 1990s rates, and it’s a more than 90% reduction from the annual death tolls that shocked the world to concerted action after World War II. Most estimates are that about 5 million people a year died from malaria through the 1950s, and into the 1960s.

WHO concentrates on the malaria fight, and plays down the political aspects to encourage international cooperation to help fight the disease. But there are political statements made, if one has the background to understand them. There remains controversy over the use of DDT, with many people yelling far and wide that if ‘bans on DDT were removed’ then malaria would quickly become an eradicated disease. This position ignores the facts, that there were still 5 million people dying each year during peak DDT use; that death tolls plunged after the U.S. banned DDT use on crops; that the U.S. ban covered only crop use, and that DDT use against disease has never been banned anywhere in the world; and that DDT use continued long after the U.S. banned DDT, around the world. DDT use never stopped.

Taken together, we would understand that the 90% reduction in malaria deaths from peak DDT use years, was accomplished mostly without DDT, and that therefore DDT is not a panacea.

World Malaria Report 2016 also tallies the slow demise of DDT. Mosquito resistance to pesticides, especially DDT, is a major problem in the fight against the disease. But more DDT can’t fix that problem now that every mosquito on Earth carries alleles that make them resistant and wholly immune to the stuff. DDT will probably never be a panacea, even were its manufacture not scheduled to stop very soon.

History, and a complete assessment of the science and current conditions in the frontlines of the malaria fight, can help us put these things in perspective.

So far, only the Los Angeles Times in the U.S. provided any in-depth reporting on World Malaria Report 2016. We hope other media will take up the challenge to inform. They will find WHO’s Fact Sheet useful.

With that warning in mind, it’s good to look at the broad outlines of the report, which WHO has packaged into a fact sheet for our convenience.

Fact Sheet: World Malaria Report 2016

13 December 2016

The World Malaria Report, published annually by WHO, tracks progress and trends in malaria control and elimination across the globe. It is developed by WHO in collaboration with ministries of health and a broad range of partners. The 2016 report draws on data from 91 countries and areas with ongoing malaria transmission.

Global progress and disease burden (2010–2015)

According to the report, there were 212 million new cases of malaria worldwide in 2015 (range 148–304 million). The WHO African Region accounted for most global cases of malaria (90%), followed by the South-East Asia Region (7%) and the Eastern Mediterranean Region (2%).

In 2015, there were an estimated 429 000 malaria deaths (range 235 000–639 000) worldwide. Most of these deaths occurred in the African Region (92%), followed by the South-East Asia Region (6%) and the Eastern Mediterranean Region (2%).

Between 2010 and 2015, malaria incidence rates (new malaria cases) fell by 21% globally and in the African Region. During this same period, malaria mortality rates fell by an estimated 29% globally and by 31% in the African Region.

Between 2010 and 2015, malaria incidence rates (new malaria cases) fell by 21% globally and in the African Region. During this same period, malaria mortality rates fell by an estimated 29% globally and by 31% in the African Region.

Other regions have achieved impressive reductions in their malaria burden. Since 2010, the malaria mortality rate declined by 58% in the Western Pacific Region, by 46% in the South-East Asia Region, by 37% in the Region of the Americas and by 6% in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. In 2015, the European Region was malaria-free: all 53 countries in the region reported at least 1 year of zero locally-acquired cases of malaria.

Children under 5 are particularly susceptible to malaria illness, infection and death. In 2015, malaria killed an estimated 303 000 under-fives globally, including 292 000 in the African Region. Between 2010 and 2015, the malaria mortality rate among children under 5 fell by an estimated 35%. Nevertheless, malaria remains a major killer of under-fives, claiming the life of 1 child every 2 minutes.

Trends in the scale-up of malaria interventions

Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission. Two forms of vector control are effective in a wide range of circumstances: insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS).

ITNs are the cornerstone of malaria prevention efforts, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the last 5 years, the use of treated nets in the region has increased significantly: in 2015, an estimated 53% of the population at risk slept under a treated net compared to 30% in 2010.

Indoor residual spraying of insecticides (IRS) is used by national malaria programmes in targeted areas. In 2015, 106 million people globally were protected by IRS, including 49 million people in Africa. The proportion of the population at risk of malaria protected by IRS declined from a peak of 5.7% globally in 2010 to 3.1% in 2015.

Diagnostics

WHO recommends diagnostic testing for all people with suspected malaria before treatment is administered. Rapid diagnostic testing (RDTs), introduced widely over the past decade, has made it easier to swiftly distinguish between malarial and non-malarial fevers, enabling timely and appropriate treatment.

New data presented in the report show that, in 2015, approximately half (51%) of children with a fever who sought care at a public health facility in 22 African countries received a malaria diagnostic test compared to 29% in 2010. Sales of RDTs reported by manufacturers rose from 88 million globally in 2010 to 320 million in 2013, but fell to 270 million in 2015.

Treatment

Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are highly effective against P. falciparum, the most prevalent and lethal malaria parasite affecting humans. Globally, the number of ACT treatment courses procured from manufacturers increased from 187 million in 2010 to a peak of 393 million in 2013, but subsequently fell to 311 million in 2015.

Prevention in pregnancy

Malaria infection in pregnancy carries substantial risks for the mother, her fetus and the newborn child. In Africa, the proportion of women who receive intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) for malaria has been increasing over time, but coverage levels remain below national targets.

IPTp is given to pregnant women at scheduled antenatal care visits after the first trimester. It can prevent maternal death, anaemia and low birth weight, a major cause of infant mortality. Between 2010 and 2015, there was a five-fold increase in the delivery of 3 or more doses of IPTp in 20 of the 36 countries that have adopted WHO’s IPTp policy – from 6% coverage in 2010 to 31% coverage in 2015.

Insecticide and drug resistance

In many countries, progress in malaria control is threatened by the rapid development and spread of antimalarial drug resistance. To date, parasite resistance to artemisinin – the core compound of the best available antimalarial medicines – has been detected in 5 countries of the Greater Mekong subregion.

Mosquito resistance to insecticides is another growing concern. Since 2010, 60 of the 73 countries that monitor insecticide resistance have reported mosquito resistance to at least 1 insecticide class used in nets and indoor spraying; of these, 50 reported resistance to 2 or more insecticide classes.

Progress towards global targets

To address remaining challenges, WHO has developed the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 (GTS). The Strategy was adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2015. It provides a technical framework for all endemic countries as they work towards malaria control and elimination.

This Strategy sets ambitious but attainable goals for 2030, with milestones along the way to track progress. The milestones for 2020 include:

  • Reducing malaria case incidence by at least 40%;
  • Reducing malaria mortality rates by at least 40%;
  • Eliminating malaria in at least 10 countries;
  • Preventing a resurgence of malaria in all countries that are malaria-free.

Progress towards the GTS country elimination milestone is on track: In 2015, 10 countries and areas reported fewer than 150 locally-acquired cases of malaria. A further 9 countries reported between 150 and 1000 cases.

However, progress towards other GTS targets must be accelerated. Less than half (40) of the 91 malaria-endemic countries are on track to meet the GTS milestone of a 40% reduction in malaria case incidence by 2020. Progress has been particularly slow in countries with a high malaria burden.

Forty-nine countries are on track to achieve the milestone of a 40% reduction in malaria mortality; this figure includes 10 countries that reported zero malaria deaths in 2015.

Funding trends

In 2015, malaria funding totalled US$ 2.9 billion, representing only 45% of the GTS funding milestone for 2020. Governments of malaria-endemic countries provided 32% of total funding. The United States of America and the United Kingdom are the largest international funders of malaria control and elimination programmes, contributing 35% and 16% of total funding, respectively. If the 2020 targets of the GTS are to be achieved, total funding must increase substantially.

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Good news, or great challenge? U.S. could help eliminate malaria

December 13, 2016

World Malaria Report 2016, published December 13, offers great hope in progress made against malaria in the past 16 years.

But it also notes a severe challenge: Funding to beat malaria works well, but funding pledges sometimes are not met, and progress against the disease slowed some in 2016.

In 2000, nearly a million people died from malaria worldwide. In 2015, the death toll had been cut to ~470,000, a 50% reduction in 15 years.

In 2016, ~429,000 people died from malaria. It’s 40,000 fewer people than the year before. Malaria fighters had hoped for more.

Most deaths occur in Africa, most deaths occur to children, and most deaths occur in areas where distribution of insecticide-impregnated bednets has not been complete. Distribution was slowed in 2016 by lack of funds at steps in the process, from manufacturing the nets (now done significantly in Africa) to distributing the nets, to educating people how to use them. Nets are more effective than pesticide spraying, with DDT or the other 11 approved pesticides, and considerably less expensive.

A child shows off the mosquito bednet that keeps him malaria-free. Image from Nothing But Nets.

A child shows off the mosquito bednet that keeps him malaria-free. Image from Nothing But Nets.

WHO’s press release on the Report laid out the problem, with hints at a solution.

Sustained and sufficient funding for malaria control is a serious challenge. Despite a steep increase in global investment for malaria between 2000 and 2010, funding has since flat-lined. In 2015, malaria funding totalled US$ 2.9 billion, representing only 45% of the funding milestone for 2020 (US$ 6.4 billion).

Governments of malaria-endemic countries provided about 31% of total malaria funding in 2015. The United States of America is the largest international malaria funder, accounting for about 35% of total funding in 2015, followed by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (16%).

U.S. funding was just over $1 billion. That may sound like a lot, but it’s not even a drop in the U.S. federal budget bucket.

With a doubling of the U.S. contribution to $2 billion, the U.S. could again lead the world in fighting malaria, and set a good example of American democracy in action.

In doing that, another 100,000 lives might be saved each year.

Then, U.S. would have high moral ground to urge other nations to contribute to fighting malaria, either directly through WHO or through non-governmental organizations whose work goes too-often unsung, such as Malaria No More, Nothing But ‘Nets, and the Clinton Foundation.

$10 buys a net and distribution, and a net protects a child from malaria better than spraying dangerous insecticides, for two to five years.

What are the odds the Trump administration could be recruited to beat malaria? Let’s increase those odds.


WHO’s World Malaria Report 2016 shows great progress, but funding slowdown hurts the fight against malaria

December 13, 2016

Promotional poster for the World Malaria Report 2016, from WHO

Promotional poster for the World Malaria Report 2016, from WHO; poster shows a woman and her child, protected from mosquitoes behind a bednet.

Incidence of malaria dropped to a new, all-time low in 2016, with reductions in total infections to 212 million, and a drop in malaria deaths to 429,000, worldwide. Malaria fighters had hoped the decreases would be greater.

Cover of World Malaria Report 2016, from the World Health Organization (WHO). The report has been published annually since at least 2008, tracking progress in the fight to control and eradicate malaria, one of the greatest scourge diseases in human history.

Cover of World Malaria Report 2016, from the World Health Organization (WHO). The report has been published annually since at least 2008, tracking progress in the fight to control and eradicate malaria, one of the greatest scourge diseases in human history.

This news comes from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Malaria Report 2016, released this morning in Geneva, Switzerland.

Of concern to readers here, the report lists ten nations still using DDT, the same number as 2015. Nine African nations and India still find some utility in DDT, though resistance to the long-used pesticide is found in almost all populations of almost all varieties of mosquito.

India remains the world’s heaviest user of DDT and the only place DDT is manufactured. The nine DDT-using African nations are Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Due to mosquito and other vector insect resistance to DDT, India will stop using DDT by 2020, and stop manufacturing at the same time.

Insecticide-impregnated bednets now are the chief tool used to prevent spread of new malaria infections. Nets have proven more effective than Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), which has always been the chief use of DDT in the malaria fight. The report notes that mosquito resistance grows alarmingly to the preferred net pesticides, pyrethroids. Nets provide a physical barrier to mosquitoes, however, and work even when the insecticides wear off.

This years report is shorter than previous years, but still loaded with statistics and policy issues to be unpacked in the next few days.

WHO’s press release:

 

Malaria control improves for vulnerable in Africa, but global progress off-track

News release

WHO’s World Malaria Report 2016 reveals that children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa have greater access to effective malaria control. Across the region, a steep increase in diagnostic testing for children and preventive treatment for pregnant women has been reported over the last 5 years. Among all populations at risk of malaria, the use of insecticide-treated nets has expanded rapidly.

But in many countries in the region, substantial gaps in programme coverage remain. Funding shortfalls and fragile health systems are undermining overall progress, jeopardizing the attainment of global targets.

Scale-up in malaria control

Sub-Saharan Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 90% of malaria cases and 92% of malaria deaths. Children under five years of age are particularly vulnerable, accounting for an estimated 70% of all malaria deaths.

Diagnostic testing enables health providers to rapidly detect malaria and prescribe life-saving treatment. New findings presented in the report show that, in 2015, approximately half (51%) of children with a fever seeking care at a public health facility in 22 African countries received a diagnostic test for malaria, compared to 29% in 2010.

To protect women in areas of moderate and high malaria transmission in Africa, WHO recommends “intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy” (IPTp) with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine. The treatment, administered at each scheduled antenatal care visit after the first trimester, can prevent maternal and infant mortality, anaemia, and the other adverse effects of malaria in pregnancy.

According to available data, there was a five-fold increase in the percentage of women receiving the recommended 3 or more doses of this preventive treatment in 20 African countries. Coverage reached 31% in 2015, up from 6% in 2010.

Insecticide-treated nets are the cornerstone of malaria prevention efforts in Africa. The report found that more than half (53%) of the population at risk in sub-Saharan Africa slept under a treated net in 2015, compared to 30% in 2010.

Last month, WHO released the findings of a major 5-year evaluation in 5 countries. The study showed that people who slept under long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) had significantly lower rates of malaria infection than those who did not use a net, even though mosquitoes showed resistance to pyrethroids (the only insecticide class used in LLINs) in all of these areas.

An unfinished agenda

Malaria remains an acute public health problem, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the report, there were 212 million new cases of malaria and 429 000 deaths worldwide in 2015.

There are still substantial gaps in the coverage of core malaria control tools. In 2015, an estimated 43% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa was not protected by treated nets or indoor spraying with insecticides, the primary methods of malaria vector control.

In many countries, health systems are under-resourced and poorly accessible to those most at risk of malaria. In 2015, a large proportion (36%) of children with a fever were not taken to a health facility for care in 23 African countries.

“We are definitely seeing progress,” notes Dr. Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. “But the world is still struggling to achieve the high levels of programme coverage that are needed to beat this disease.”

Global targets

At the 2015 World Health Assembly, Member States adopted the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030. The Strategy set ambitious targets for 2030 with milestones every 5 years to track progress.

Eliminating malaria in at least 10 countries is a milestone for 2020. The report shows that prospects for reaching this target are bright: In 2015, 10 countries and territories reported fewer than 150 indigenous cases of malaria, and a further 9 countries reported between 150 and 1000 cases.

Countries that have achieved at least 3 consecutive years of zero indigenous cases of malaria are eligible to apply for the WHO certification of malaria elimination. In recent months, the WHO Director-General certified that Kyrgyzstan and Sri Lanka had eliminated malaria.

But progress towards other key targets must be accelerated. The Strategy calls for a 40% reduction in malaria case incidence by the year 2020, compared to a 2015 baseline. According to the report, less than half (40) of the 91 countries and territories with malaria are on track to achieve this milestone. Progress has been particularly slow in countries with a high malaria burden.

An urgent need for more funding

Sustained and sufficient funding for malaria control is a serious challenge. Despite a steep increase in global investment for malaria between 2000 and 2010, funding has since flat-lined. In 2015, malaria funding totalled US$ 2.9 billion, representing only 45% of the funding milestone for 2020 (US$ 6.4 billion).

Governments of malaria-endemic countries provided about 31% of total malaria funding in 2015. The United States of America is the largest international malaria funder, accounting for about 35% of total funding in 2015, followed by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (16%).

If global targets are to be met, funding from both domestic and international sources must increase substantially.

Note to editors

RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine

Last month, WHO announced that the world’s first malaria vaccine would be rolled out through pilot projects in 3 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Vaccinations will begin 2018. The vaccine, known as RTS,S, acts against P. falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally, and the most prevalent in Africa. Advanced clinical trials have shown RTS,S to provide partial protection against malaria in young children.

WHO multi-country evaluation on LLINs

On 16 November 2016, WHO released the findings of a 5-year evaluation conducted in 340 locations across 5 countries: Benin, Cameroon, India, Kenya and Sudan. The findings of this study reaffirm the WHO recommendation of universal LLIN coverage for all populations at risk of malaria.

Will major media cover this news? Will your local newspapers and broadcast outlets even make note?

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Why we need war on the mosquito, the deadliest animal – Bill Gates

October 16, 2016

World's Deadliest Animals, Gates Foundation

World’s Deadliest Animals, Gates Foundation

One could quibble, and point out that it’s the malaria parasite that does the dirty work, more than the mosquito; but it’s only a quibble.

Short film from Bill Gates explaining why he helps wage war on the lowly mosquito. Use of science to find ways to defeat mosquito-borne disease transmission is especially important in the post-DDT world, since DDT resistance now aids every mosquito on Earth.

GatesNotes said:

There are about a dozen different diseases that are spread to humans by mosquito bites including dengue, yellow fever, Zika, chikungunya, and malaria. This little mosquito actually kills more humans than any other thing.

Learn more at: http://b-gat.es/2cUd9Ff


DDT FAIL: Mosquito-borne diseases deplete medical care in DDT’s world capital

September 15, 2016

India News Today photo shows insecticide fogging in crowded Delhi neighborhoods to combat Chikungunya virus by striking down mosquitoes that transmit the disease from one human to another.

India News Today photo shows insecticide fogging in crowded Delhi neighborhoods to combat Chikungunya virus by striking down mosquitoes that transmit the disease from one human to another.

In the western world, libertarians, so-called conservatives and anti-science people call for a “return” of DDT to fight Zika virus spread.

But in the world’s DDT capital, India, where DDT is still made and more DDT is applied than in the rest of the world combined, DDT’s failures stand out. News reports say health care in key Indian cities is hamstrung by doctors and nurses getting mosquito-borne diseases.

Why don’t they just use “the magic powder,” DDT, to wipe out mosquitoes? Oh, Dear Reader, India has used DDT extensively, for everything, for 60 years. Mosquitoes that carry disease, and all other mosquitoes, and many other insect pests, developed resistance and immunity to DDT from that use.

Apart from the fact that DDT would be the WRONG pesticide to use for anything other than malaria-carrying mosquitoes from the genus Anopheles, it simply does not work.

If DDT advocates paid attention to news and history, they’d not call for more DDT anywhere for any reason.

India Today detailed the simmering crisis in Delhi in a story headlined, “Dengue-chinkungunya outbreak takes down doctor, nurses and sanitation workers”:

Subhead:

Apart from doctors, even nurses, other members of the medical staff and sanitation workers are going on leave at a time when the number of people afflicted by dengue and chikungunya this year in the city and its suburbs has crossed two thousand.

As outcry over an onslaught of viral diseases in the Capital reaches fever pitch and hospitals struggle in the face of an unrelenting tide of patients, the men in white too have started calling in sick.

Apart from doctors, even nurses, other members of the medical staff and sanitation workers are going on leave at a time when the number of people afflicted by dengue and chikungunya this year in the city and its suburbs has crossed two thousand.

Malaria is carried almost always by Anopheles, but chikungunya is carried by two species of Aedes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These mosquitoes also carry dengue fever and Yellow fever. A. aegypti is the principal carrier of the Zika virus, worldwide. Health workers being felled by dengue and chikungunya tells us the area would also be fertile territory for the spread of Zika virus, if it were introduced there.

Careful watchers, therefore, will understand that DDT has worn out its usefulness against a wide variety of mosquito-borne diseases including Zika.

“In our hospital, 10 per cent of the staff is currently down with fever,” said Dr Ramesh Chugh, medical superintendent of Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya Hospital in south Delhi. “We have over 100 doctors, and currently 7-8 doctors are down with fever.”

Experts say heavier than usual rainfall, a large number of construction projects and scores of open drains in Delhi are allowing mosquitoes to breed in stagnant water.

Far too many commenters fail to understand that DDT was never the chief tool in fighting malaria, or any other disease. Instead, DDT was used to knock down local populations of mosquitoes, temporarily, so health care and better housing and other measures could cure humans of the diseases and remove mosquito breeding areas from areas around human homes and human activities. India’s failure to provide good sewage drainage, good storm sewage drainage, and otherwise plug up potholes and even tiny water catching places allows mosquitoes almost free rein. India relied too long on poisoning everything with DDT, instead of building a mosquito-resistant urban area.

At Lok Nayak Hospital in central Delhi, 18 doctors are on leave. “Either the doctors are down with fever or somebody in their family is ill. The doctors are taking leave for at least 4-5 days. We have had cases where physicians were ill but returned to work early seeing the number of patients,” said a senior doctor.

NURSES AND SANITATION WORKERS ALSO ON LEAVE

In east Delhi’s Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, 18 members of the medical staff, including doctors, nurses and sanitation workers, are absent. “In a staff of nearly 1200, 10-15 doctors are on leave due to viral illnesses,” said Dr Punita Mahajan, medical superintendent of Baba Ambedkar Hospital in northwest Delhi. “We are not exerting pressure on the doctors to continue if they feel slightly unwell as it is very important for the hospital to ensure that they remain healthy.”

The Delhi government has asked hospitals to ensure that dengue and chikungunya patients are treated without distress.

Officials say the health department has already dedicated an additional 1,000 beds for those suffering from fever at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, Janakpuri Super Speciality Hospital and Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital.

These institutes have been designated nodal hospitals for fever in the city. All hospitals- government and private – in the National Capital Territory have been directed to increase their surge capacity.

“While doctors are trying their best to remain on duty till the effect of vector-borne diseases recedes the city, the shortage in staff and the new directions from the government would add to the existing burden,” said a doctor on condition of anonymity.

The Delhi government says it is fully prepared to battle with the onslaught of diseases and has denied in the city high court claims that the Capital is facing its worst dengue crisis.

In an affidavit filed in the court, it said strict surveillance of preparedness and impact of these diseases has been carried out for taking further preventive measures as, due to environmental conditions, the number of diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria shows an upswing during July to October.

India continues to learn that DDT is not magic, not often useful, and sometimes detrimental to disease control efforts.

Will the rest of the world watch and learn? No, DDT will not and cannot help in the fight against Zika virus’s spread to humans. Waste no more time wondering, but get on with the hard work of draining mosquito breeding places, improving houses with window screens and other improvements, and developing vaccines and other medicines. Now.

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Men who can help us fight mosquitoes in the post-DDT world!

June 23, 2016

mosquito_hunters

Roy and Hank Spim. Photo by M. Python

George Wiman, a jack-of-many-trades, provides a hopeful post on the issue of fighting Zika virus, in a world where DDT no longer works well against mosquitoes.

At least, I think he does.

The daily saga of Hank and Roy.


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