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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Australia to help Sri Lanka fight worst-ever dengue outbreak

The number of infections nationwide is already 38 per cent higher than last year, when 55,150 people were diagnosed with dengue and 97 died, according to the health ministry

A Sri Lankan municipal worker fumigating in Colombo, Sri Lanka during dengue fever eradication work. Australia is contributing funds to help Sri Lanka combat its worst outbreak of dengue fever. Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo
A Sri Lankan municipal worker fumigating in Colombo, Sri Lanka during dengue fever eradication work. Australia is contributing funds to help Sri Lanka combat its worst outbreak of dengue fever. Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo

Australia is contributing funds to help Sri Lanka combat its worst outbreak of dengue fever, which has claimed 250 lives and infected nearly 100,000 people so far this year in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Visiting foreign minister Julie Bishop said on Wednesday that Australia is giving 475,000 Australian dollars (Dh1.38m) to the World Health Organisation to implement immediate dengue prevention, management and eradication programmes in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka's hospitals are overcrowded with patients, and the government has deployed soldiers, police and health officials to inspect houses and clear rotting garbage, stagnant water pools and other potential mosquito-breeding grounds across the country.

Health officials blamed the public for their failure to clear puddles and piles of trash after last month's heavy monsoon rains.

The number of infections nationwide is already 38 per cent higher than last year, when 55,150 people were diagnosed with dengue and 97 died, according to the health ministry.

Cases were concentrated around the main city of Colombo, though they were occurring across the tropical island nation.

Ms Bishop will be meeting with government leaders on Thursday during her two-day visit.

She said Australia is offering an additional 1 million Australian dollars for a research partnership between Australia's Monash University and Sri Lanka's health ministry to test the introduction of naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria to eradicate dengue fever from Sri Lanka.

She said the bacteria "prevent transmission of dengue virus between humans" and that it has shown success during the last six years in countries such as Brazil, Columbia, Australia, India, Vietnam and Indonesia where it was piloted.

The bacteria have the ability to block other mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and Chikungunya, the Australian embassy said in a statement.

Read more on Wolbachia:

Singapore releases more mosquitoes in fight against Zika

Vietnam’s Dr Dracula and the dengue-busting mosquitos

In pictures: Nurturing friendly mosquitos

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