PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry is planning to release anti-dengue mosquitoes into the wild, beginning with a selected area in Selangor.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the mosquitoes will be “infected” with the Wolbachia bacteria and then released to see if it will reduce the number of dengue cases in the area.
“This is a localised study by the Institute of Medical Research in collaboration with a university in Britain. We will be releasing these Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes into a localised community which we have identified in Selangor.
“We will then see the impact of this in reducing dengue cases in that area. Based on that study, we will make a decision on whether we will use it (elsewhere),” said Dr Subramaniam at a press conference at his ministry yesterday.
Wolbachia is a natural bacterium found in about 60% of different species of insects, including mosquitoes.
He said this pilot project will be executed “in the coming weeks”.
A mosquito that is infected with Wolbachia will not have the ability to pass on diseases to humans.
Similar efforts involving Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes in other parts of the world have shown successes in reducing the spread of Zika and chikungunya viruses.
A few years ago in Malaysia, there were also efforts to release “genetically sterile” male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to reduce the mosquito population.
On another matter, Dr Subramaniam said the Health Ministry will step up publicity and enforcement efforts in light of the new non-smoking zones which recently came into force.
“We need to increase enforcement and publicity efforts. The ministry will be stepping up its publicity measures on the new non-smoking areas, which we have gazetted recently, so that it can be observed by the public.
“As for enforcement, it is a collective effort not just by the ministry, but by other local authorities as well. This needs to be increased too,” he said.
Last week, checks by The Star revealed that many people continue to smoke in parks, with many claiming to be unaware of the new regulations.
Earlier, Dr Subramaniam clarified that the increase for medical charges at Government clinics and hospitals only apply to first class and second class inpatients.
“We made a rationalisation on the charges for the first and second class inpatients, as the fees have not been changed for a long time. This is due to rising costs which is happening globally in medical care.
“However, third class inpatients will still be paying the same charges. Of course, the Government subsidy has increased, but we recognise that the poor and the low-income group rely heavily on our ministry’s services, so we will continue to make it affordable for them”.
Meanwhile, the Perak Health Department is predicting a drastic spike in dengue cases in the state this year.
State Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon warned that based on a cyclical trend noted by the department, there would be a hike in cases every few years.
“The weather is unpredictable, so it is not easy. Aedes mosquito eggs are also resilient and they can survive between four and six months without water.
“A drop of water at any time can lead to the eggs being hatched,” he said.