Hospitals are home to some of the most vulnerable in society: the sick and the elderly. What if these hospitals are putting these vulnerable people at risk of potentially more deadly conditions than they arrived with? This is currently the case in many hospitals in Lucknow, where the hospitals themselves have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes capable of infecting the patients with diseases such as dengue fever and malaria.
Across Lucknow a number of hospitals, as well as buildings surrounding the hospitals, are presenting ideal conditions for mosquitoes to breed. Unsanitary conditions such as the improper disposal of garbage and stagnant water were rife in a number of hospitals across the city, claims a team sent by the Health Department to inspect the area.
The following hospitals were served notices by the Health Department due to the unsanitary conditions: Balrampur Hospital, Lokbandhu Hospita, Ram Laxmi Bai combined hospital, Thakurganj combined hospital, Urban Community Health Centre (CHC) Chandranagar, Urban CHC Red Cross and State Medical Education Bureau. A fast food restaurant outside the Bhaurao Devras combined hospital was also served a notice due to its proximity to a medical facility.
Reports of unsanitary conditions creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes are not uncommon in India. The finding that these conditions are also present in hospitals however is a more distinct threat, especially to patients already in a vulnerable condition, such as those with compromised immune systems due to a current illness.
The Swachh Bharat (Clean India) initiative seems to have had no lasting effects, at least in these areas, with unsanitary conditions returning soon after campaigns. Many reports show the poor are disproportionately affected by the conditions, for example the case of Sainik farms, in which a rich area of bungalows are using the slum nearby as a dumping ground. The mosquitoes however do not distinguish rich and poor: should the area become a breeding ground anyone living nearby is at risk.
Swachh Bharat is an idea that could hugely benefit India, especially in terms of public health. It could limit the breeding grounds of mosquitoes substantially, which would ease the strain on public health services. However, in order to be effective, it needs to be consistently sustained across a number of years.
The implementation of technological advances may also help monitor and reduce mosquito numbers. In Chennai, the Greater Chennai Corporation has requested state government funds to assist in providing a live-tracking mosquito nest monitoring system. Live updates of mosquito breeding habitats could aid in coordinating clean up operations to effectively remove large scale mosquito threats before outbreaks of disease begin.
With the sudden emergence of the Zika virus in India — as well as an apparent increase in malaria cases in areas such as Delhi –– the fight against mosquito-borne disease is an important concern. Technology, healthcare, as well as sanitation services will need to work in cooperation if any ground is to be gained in combating the mosquito threat.