THE fight against dengue in Penang has escalated to ‘biological weaponry’.
The state government is using a microbe -- the Wolbachia bacteria -- that is the nemesis of the dengue virus.
Some 433,500 Aedes aegypti mosquito eggs injected with Wolbachia bacteria have been released in three places in the state.
When these mosquitoes breed, they will pass the bacteria to the future generations and thus infected, they prevent the dengue, Zika and Chikungunya viruses.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the operation to release Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes, supplied by Institute of Medical Research, had been carried out at the three locations since Nov 19 last year.
The places are Inderawasih Flats in Seberang Prai, Taman Manggis People’s Housing Project (PPR) in George Town and Bukit Gedung Flats in Bayan Lepas.
“The goal is to have these adult Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes reach a frequency of over 80% and replace disease-carrying Aedes mosquitoes.
“Dengue has been around for hundreds of years but there is still no vaccine and specific treatments to cure it.
“We are using science and technology, and Industrial Revolution 4.0 to handle this, ” he said.
He said dengue cases in Penang has dropped by 86% in the first six weeks of this year, or 182 cases compared with 1,285 in the same time last year.
“There was one death due to dengue this year compared with seven in the same period last year, ” he said during the ceremony to launch the Wolbachia-infected Aedes mosquitoes project at Bukit Gedung Flats in Bayan Lepas on Sunday.
Penang Health Department director Dr Asmayani Khalib, in her speech, said the mosquito has been listed as the leading killer of humans that mediates other diseases such as Japanese Encephalitis, Chinkungunya and Zika besides high fever.
“Fogging activity is familiar to us but it is not the ultimate solution. It only brings short-term effect as it kills the adult mosquitoes only and not the mosquito larvae.
“We have to be aware that mosquito larvae which inherits the dengue virus will continue to transmit dengue.
“The Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes project is a natural and safe method not only for humans and animals but also for the environment, ” she said.
Penang health committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said Selangor has shown positive outcomes by using this method.
“The Health Ministry launched the first Wolbachia-infected mosquito release in last July and saw a decrease of 60% to 80% in dengue cases.
“The Aedes eggs are infected with Wolbachia bacteria using a micro injection method, ” he said.
Dr Afif added that fogging activities would not be carried out within a radius of 200m from the location where the Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes were released so that they could propagate.
There were also several health and safety booths set up for the public during the event.
Also present were state exco member and Batu Maung assemblyman Datuk Abdul Halim Hussain, Komtar assemblyman Teh Lai Heng and Batu Uban assemblyman A. Kumaresan.
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