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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

‘Supporting India’s efforts in building vector surveillance capacity’: Gates Foundation Dy Director

Screening and surveillance are key to preventing reintroduction of lymphatic filariasis infection in large urban areas which provide ideal breeding sites for the vectors, says Dr Helen Jamet.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
Updated: August 20, 2021 10:41:41 am
Dr. Helen Jamet, Bill and Melinda Gates FoundationDr Helen Jamet, Deputy Director, Vector Control, Malaria at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Reaching the zero malaria target is the theme of the World Mosquito Day (August 20) this year. On the occasion, Dr Helen Jamet, deputy director, vector control, malaria, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told The Indian Express that there is concern about epidemic-prone diseases like malaria and dengue, and countries have realised the importance of developing integrated entomological surveillance platforms.

What efforts are being taken to step up awareness in India against vector borne diseases?

Our primary strategic goal is to support the Government of India’s ambition to eliminate vector-borne diseases and expansion of integrated vector-borne disease surveillance. We are also working with the relevant government departments to accelerate lymphatic filariasis (LF) elimination through the nationwide roll-out of triple drug therapy (IDA-ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine, and albendazole). It is heartening to see the efforts of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) and the state governments in scaling up the IDA program with increased resources.

Screening and surveillance are key to preventing reintroduction of lymphatic filariasis infection in large urban areas, which provide ideal breeding sites for the vectors. We will support the NVBDCP and the state governments in building integrated vector surveillance capacity in India, which will include ensuring sustainable career paths for entomologists, vector collection and xenomonitoring for quality data availability.

What is IVM (Integrated Vector Management) and what is its success rate in India?

Integrated Vector Management (IVM) is an approach by the World Health Organization that encourages optimal use of resources for efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable vector control. In 2017, the WHO published the Global Vector Control Response to provide a new strategy to strengthen vector control worldwide through increased capacity, improved surveillance, better coordination and integrated action across sectors and diseases. This approach has been adopted by the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) in India where the occurrence of multiple overlapping vector-borne diseases provide a strong rationale for an integrated approach. The Government of India has created a framework to enable effective entomological monitoring: entomological zones (EZ), filaria control units, regional directorates, and municipal corporations.

What projects are the Foundation associated with in India that are related to vector-borne diseases?

We currently fund projects around visceral leishmaniasis and lymphatic filariasis elimination in India. During the pandemic, the ministry of health and family welfare released guidelines for management of co-infection of Covid-19 with other seasonal epidemic-prone diseases. These guidelines outline the prevention and treatment of co-infections of Covid-19 with diseases like dengue, malaria, seasonal influenza (H1N1), leptospirosis and chikungunya.

What are the concerns about twin infection with Covid-19 and other vector borne diseases?

We continue to be concerned about epidemic prone diseases (e.g., dengue, malaria, chikungunya, seasonal influenza and leptospirosis) prevalent in a particular geographic region during monsoon and post-monsoon seasons. Accurate diagnosis of febrile illness is critical where there are concomitant infections. For example, dengue viruses and the virus that causes Covid-19 can cause similar symptoms in the early stages. Malaria and Covid-19 can also share symptoms, making widespread, rapid testing essential. Countries have begun realising the importance of developing integrated entomological surveillance (IES) platforms that are backed by robust local institutional capacity and sustainable financing.

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