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In recent decades, global dengue and Zika outbreaks have grown exponentially. World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that about 50% of the world’s population are at risk for dengue and as many as four million people could be infected by Zika towards year end. As of August 2016, up to 67,437 dengue cases were reported in Malaysia with 153 deaths. The concerns on mosquito-borne diseases in the nation are now further exacerbated with the presence of Zika virus resulting in a total of 6 confirmed Zika cases so far.
According to Dr. Rose Nani Mudin, the Head of Vector Borne Disease Sector at the Ministry of Health Malaysia, climate change with alternating rainy and scorching weather is one of the main causes in the high density of mosquitoes. Furthermore, the hot and dry weather in Malaysia also made it easier for Aedes to breed compared to countries with a temperate climate. She further added that littering and inappropriate solid waste disposal have also resulted in high mosquito breeding index.
Dr Ashok Zachariah Philip, President of the Malaysian Medical Association, revealed that many Malaysians only dengue-proof their houses, but not the entire neighbourhood and this is insufficient to fight the outbreak. The community should in fact work towards a more sustainable protection by ensuring cleanliness and hygiene not only in their houses but around the neighbourhood.
Dr Philip also emphasised that mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and Zika virus infection can lead to devastating effects on infected individuals and their families. Therefore, he urges communities to clean up their neighbourhood and request for local councils to inspect potential breeding grounds, especially when there are construction sites nearby.
How Mosquito Borne Disease like Dengue is Inflicting Pain in Life
Often mistaken for the flu or normal fever, some people contracted dengue without realising it until the symptoms have worsened. Take Ruby as an example, a college student who suffered from symptoms of joint pains and migraines, and dismissed them as stress-related. She only visited the doctor when the pain became unbearable and was tested positive for the virus. Ruby then went through a spell of depression, worrying about her well-being and exams. Since her ordeal, she also shares her arduous experience with family and friends hoping that they will take preventive measures to protect themselves.
Besides causing a lot of pain and discomfort to the victims, dengue also greatly impacts the family members who care for the patient. Clementine from Petaling Jaya was terribly distressed when her mother contracted the virus and her work productivity was tremendously affected as a result of the many days off that she had to take to nurse her ailing mother. Once her mother recovered, Clementine has started to look into solutions for her home to be completely protected from mosquitoes.
Although dengue fever could ultimately result in death, the patient could be cured if given appropriate treatment at the right time. But is it different from Zika which will eventually lead to severe disabilities, especially to children (Microcephaly). A new research at The Rockefeller University and La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology suggests that certain adult brain cells may be vulnerable to infection as well. If the breeding of Aedes mosquitoes continues to remain uncontrolled, many of us in Malaysia would be at risk of contracting the virus.
Making the Shift
Unfortunately, despite the alarming dengue cases, most Malaysians still maintain a reactive approach towards this epidemic. They only respond and take preventive measures when someone they know has contracted the virus. Many underestimate the perilous and interrelated burden of such mosquito-borne diseases and therefore, take little effort in controlling the vector. This reactive approach is indeed the biggest challenge in achieving a successful and sustainable effort of mosquito control. As part of a holistic solution to combat this mosquito-borne disease, Malaysians must adopt a proactive approach instead and the first step is ensuring zero stagnant water around their neighbourhood while maintaining cleanliness and hygiene.
We should also do our part by constantly keeping alert on potential breeding sites and continuously engage the entire neighbourhood in taking action. This is because all dengue hotspots are also considered hotspots for Zika since the virus is being spread by the same vector, which is the Aedes mosquito. Consistent information to raise awareness within the community can help to educate and empower each individual to protect themselves from the virus. Everyone is equally susceptible to the virus as Aedes mosquitoes do not choose their victims.
Combating Mosquito Effectively
Every mosquito species go through four distinct stages in its life cycle – egg, larva, pupa and adult. A teaspoon of clean stagnant water, which is easily found anywhere, is all it takes for an Aedes aegypti mosquito to lay a batch of eggs. Hence, for a winning battle, we should fight our enemy at every stage of its life cycle.
As part of their continuous effort to protect Malaysians from mosquitoes, leading pest company like Rentokil has designed an Integrated Mosquito Management (IMM) programme, which has proven to be an effective approach to mosquito control in the long run. The IMM programme encourages the public to practise holistic approach in fighting mosquitoes at every stage of their life cycle, through the combination of removing potential mosquito breeding grounds, larviciding, water-based fogging and the use of adult mosquito traps. However, as mosquito species continue to evolve, it is equally crucial to have consistent community action and continuous information sharing to achieve a successful and long-term prevention.
“People often take the impact of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue for granted, but when we or our loved ones are affected, this impacts our life greatly. Hence, we need to be proactive in combating mosquitoes from the get-go. This is why at Rentokil Initial, we are committed to protecting people from the dangers of pest-borne diseases while enhancing their lives with integrated solutions that safeguard both their health and wellbeing.” says Carol Lam, Managing Director of Rentokil Initial Malaysia.