COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Police arrested 53 people for failing to eliminate stagnant water and other mosquito breeding grounds as Sri Lanka tries to prevent dengue fever, which has infected thousands already this year.
Police, army and health officers searched 11,500 houses in the capital Colombo over seven hours Sunday, police spokesman Ajith Rohana said. Those arrested for not cleaning up their surrounding environment face fines and up to six months in jail.
He said this is the first time police made such a large number of arrests from Colombo for failing to clean mosquito breeding places.
Dengue fever has killed 74 people this year and infected 15,000. Health officials say it has increased because residents have become more careless about cleaning their properties and eliminating mosquito breeding grounds.
The flu-like illness is spread by the Aedes mosquito and spikes during the annual monsoons, when the rains leave puddles of stagnant water where the insects breed. In Sri Lanka, the southwest monsoon that usually begins in May lasts until September.
Dengue starts suddenly with a high fever, rash, severe headache and pain behind the eyes and in the muscles and joints. The severity of the joint pain has given dengue the name "breakbone fever." Nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite also are common.
The government said last week 10,000 security forces had been deployed to help dengue eradication efforts this month. They help to search houses and buildings to detect breeding places and join other public workers to clean public buildings and places.