Sri Lanka dealing with massive outbreak of dengue fever; PQMD member Americares responding to need

A Sri Lankan man stands near garbage piled on a street in the capital Colombo on June 26, 2017. Source:

At least 227 people have died and thousands infected with dengue fever in Sri Lanka. More than 79,000 infections have been reported since the beginning of 2017. The outbreak comes after large scale floods hit the area earlier this year and a garbage dump collapsed in the capital of Colombo.

The leading cause of death for those infected by dengue is delayed health care, according to hospital officials in Sri Lanka. Families are struggling to find appointments and resources for those infected, and hospitals are turning away patients due to overcrowding. The strain is believed more fatal than previous dengue fever outbreaks in the island nation. During the last outbreak, in 2009, 25,000 were infected and 249 died.

A group of men walk through a flooded road during a rescue mission in Nagoda village in Kalutara. Source: REUTERS; Courtesy of Americares

Dengue fever is a painful, mosquito-borne disease transmitted when a mosquito bites a person infected with dengue fever. The Sri Lankan government is concerned about increase in transmission and infection as flood waters continue to recede and stagnant water provides breeding ground for mosquitoes. The garbage dump collapse and subsequent sanitation issues also contributed to the outbreak. Troops have been deployed to assist in combating the disease.

PQMD member Americares is preparing a shipment of long lasting insecticide nets for the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health. The organization launched a three month response to the Sri Lankan flooding focusing on rehabilitation of damaged health facilities, mental health and psychosocial programming, and replenishment of medicines and supplies. Americares is working with two Maternal and Child Health clinics in Kalutara District that were inundated by floodwaters.

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