Sri Lankan newspaper Mawbina has taken fighting dengue fever to new levels. For national dengue week they ran the usual articles on how to avoid getting bitten by dengue-carrying mosquitoes. However, they went further producing poster ads coated in citronella essence and hanging them in bus stops, allowing people to huddle at the stop under the ads' protective smell.
The highlight of the campaign came on the April 7, World Health Day. As the video below notes, “People read the newspaper in the early morning and evening, the time the mosquito strikes. The entire newspaper was printed using inks with citronella essence mixed in. As they claim “Every letter of every word stopped mosquitos from biting.”
As a commercial venture the project was a huge success – with the edition selling out by 10am, a sales increase of 30%.
Dengue, sometimes known as breakbone fever because of the excruciating pain involved, is a threat to 40% of the world's population, according to the World Health Organisation. Although death is rare, particularly with rapid treatment, it can disable sufferers for long periods of time,
Globally there are between 50 and 100 million infections each year. Moreover, dengue is growing in frequency as the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes that carry it flourish in urban environments.
There is no vaccine for dengue, and the bednets that have been so effective in cutting malaria transmission don't work against insect species that bite during the day. Sri Lanka was the first place where overuse of DDT led to resistance among malarial mosquitoes, making the insecticide almost useless. Control mechanisms focus on removing breeding sites or making them unsuitable, and targeted insecticide use under conditions less likely to produce resistance.
Research continues into more novel control techniques.