The gemstone fever that is currently sweeping Indonesia could lead to a literally deadly fever: dengue.
Tjandra Yoga Aditama, the Health Ministry’s head of research and development, said that researchers have been collecting larva samples from residential houses in a number of areas in the country.
The researchers found that about 30 to 50 percent houses they visited have spots of stagnant water where mosquito larvae are breeding, increasing the risk of dengue fever spreading.
“Our researchers found that there were a number of tin cans, pans, or buckets filled with water used to soak pieces of rough gemstones in some of the houses we visited,” he said.
“They found larvae of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which could transmit dengue fever, breeding in the water containers used to soak the stones,” Tjandra said.
Symptoms of dengue fever are sometimes mild and can be mistaken for those of the flu. But serious complications can develop, leading to fatal dengue shock syndrome (DSS), which is characterised by massive bleeding.
Tjandra warned that if the water remained in the containers without being replaced regularly, they could be new breeding grounds for mosquitoes that spread dengue fever.
“Don’t let the gemstone fever turn into real [dengue] fever,” Tjandra said.
Soaking is believed as a way to clean and to bring out gemstones’ colors and patterns.
Tjandra said the ministry’s researchers also found that mosquitoes bred in water dispenser trays that remained uncleaned for days and in bathroom waters containers.
But despite residents’ claims that they regularly change the waters in those containers, Tjandra said most people forget to also clean the inner walls of bathtubs, where mosquitoes already laid their larvae.
“Once the water containers are refilled, the larvae would breed into mosquitoes, so it’s not enough to just change the water but we must clean the containers too to get rid of the larvicides,” Tjandra said.
Dengue fever is an epidemic in Indonesia, as it kills hundreds of people here every year.
Health Ministry data show about 71,000 of dengue fever cases were recorded last year, of which 700 were fatal.
In 2013 the government recorded 112,511 fever cases, with 871 fatalities.