Contending with two viral threats


  • Metro News
  • Saturday, 30 May 2020

Regular dengue eradication exercises have had to take a back seat while dealing with the pandemic. — Filepic

WE are fighting a battle on two fronts — one that is new, fatal and contagious while the other is old but equally dangerous.

While all eyes are on the Covid-19 outbreak, and we seem to be doing well in the fight in comparison to many other nations, we seem to have forgotten an old threat: dengue fever.

At the time of writing, 45,894 dengue cases have been reported nationwide since Dec 29, while 7,619 Covid-19 positive cases have been detected.

There have been 82 dengue-related deaths compared to 115 Covid-19 deaths so far.

With almost six times as many cases, dengue fever is not one to be taken lightly but unfortunately, this is the situation we are witnessing and sadly, not reacting to.

Perhaps it is because Malaysians have become accustomed to dengue.

In Selangor alone, 26,577 cases have been reported, with some 100 new cases each day.

Rounding off the top of the list is Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur at 4,155 cases and Johor with 4,050 cases.

Campean is also eating more healthily after he stopped smoking.Ten minutes spent on checking and clearing flower pots, gutters and dead leaves can go a long way. — FilepicCampean is also eating more healthily after he stopped smoking.Ten minutes spent on checking and clearing flower pots, gutters and dead leaves can go a long way. — Filepic

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s parasitology and entomology expert Assoc Prof Dr Hidayatul Fathi Othman described it as a very difficult situation as Malaysians had to battle two different viruses.

“There are many similarities between the dengue virus and Covid-19, including its symptoms especially in the beginning.

“Both are a type of viral disease and there are currently no vaccines.

“But most importantly, a major keyword for control measure here against both diseases is cleanliness, ” she said, adding that dengue is dangerous but preventable.

There was a drop in numbers for the past two years, which also meant that dengue management efforts were seeing results.

While certainly aware of the dangers of the virus, many are still not playing their part and instead, are still expecting the authorities to solve the problem.

But these are extraordinary times; local authorities have had to deploy most of their resources and manpower to minimise the impact of Covid-19.

Unfortunately, this has also meant that what used to be regular dengue eradication exercises have had to take a back seat while the authorities are dealing with the pandemic.

The current rainy season is an ideal time for Aedes mosquitoes to breed as they lay their eggs in any pool of water, even as small as that in an upturned plastic cap of a mineral water bottle.

That leaves us Malaysians to not only chip in, but mobilise community resources where possible.

Experts have said that it is best to target the eradication of Aedes mosquitoes during the immature stage.

Most importantly, managing dengue requires a coordinated effort between residents, local authorities and stakeholders.

Any effort at dengue management will not work if it is done in silos.

A houseowner who diligently cleaned and removed any potential mosquito breeding site could still contract the virus if her neighbours did not follow suit.

This is the time when ordinary Malaysians should step forward to do their bit, even if it is just within the limited confines of their homes and compounds.

A simple 10 minutes spent on checking and clearing flower pots, gutters, dead leaves and also the toilet can go a long way.

Even though we are hyper aware of the Covid-19 pandemic, let us not become complacent about dengue; especially when eradicating it lies within our hands.

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