June 30, 2022

Authorities must act fast in fighting dengue

3 min read

I REFER to the comments made by Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye in Parliament on the sharp rise in the number of dengue cases in Malaysia, “Lee: We are reviewing fine on firms breeding mosquitoes” (The Star, Dec 3). He noted that the sharp rise in dengue cases was not confined to Malaysia but also affected neighbouring countries such as Singapore, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, and Taiwan, where the number of cases had increased by between one and eight-fold.Malaysians must be sick and tired of government officials dishing out statistics and more statistics on dengue infections and how we are either better off or no worse off than neighbouring countries. What is the purpose of such information? What we want to know is what steps the government is taking to tackle the spread of this disease.

I personally have had two miserable experiences with the local authority when I reported the excessive presence of mosquitoes in my neighbourhood. The first time was a few years ago when I lodged a report about the drains in the back alleys of my housing area which were not cleaned regularly and were clogged with water. I even took photos and went personally to the local authority’s office to report the problem, but no action was taken. Meanwhile, I landed up in hospital with dengue.

While I was warded, someone from the local authority telephoned me to say that the hospital had informed them about my admission for dengue and that workers were now in my area to check for the presence of mosquitoes!

Recently, I again detected an increase in the presence of mosquitoes in my area and duly lodged a report with the local authority. To their credit, local authority workers came a few days later, checked around my area and discovered two spots where mosquitoes were breeding. The areas were immediately treated.

The workers then spotted mosquitoes breeding in pots in the compound of a house nearby, but the owner wasn’t around to let them in. While talking to the local authority officer outside this house, we were both bitten by mosquitoes. The officer managed to kill some and told me that they were Aedes mosquitoes! I was handed some Abate, which I was asked to give to the house owner when he came back – and I did.

Despite the local authority’s action, the volume of mosquitoes did not go down. I continued to call the local authority and even spoke to officers in the vector control department, but one week after the last inspection, no one has bothered to come for a follow-up visit.

My complaints to the state representative also yielded no results.

As such, government officials like the deputy health minister should not blame only the public for being careless about cleanliness in their homes and surroundings. When members of the public lodge reports, please take action immediately to prevent the situation from getting out of hand. We can take care of our own premises but when others in the area do not cooperate, it is only the local authority that can take stronger action like issuing summonses and etc.

I frequently walk up and down the streets to take photos of garbage discarded by careless residents on the roadside. I send these photos to the person in charge of garbage collection and, thankfully, action is taken within 24 hours.

I read an article recently about the Singapore government investing S$5mil to set up a new facility to breed five million Wolbachia-infected male mosquitoes a week and release them into the environment to eradicate mosquitoes.

Our deputy health minister said a similar scheme has been carried out in Malaysia but the mosquitoes were only released in 11 localities. Can we know where these localities are and when will the rest of the country get this treatment?


Petaling Jaya