Dengue bites hard in Selangor


Fog of war: A worker from a pest control company conducting fogging in Anjung Sari, Shah Alam.Fog of war: A worker from a pest control company conducting fogging in Anjung Sari, Shah Alam.

SHAH ALAM: In the tranquil greenery of the Setia Alam township, a war rages.

Anjung Sari, a quiet gated community near the foothills of the Shah Alam Community Forest, is under siege by an old enemy - the Aedes mosquito.

In March and April alone, the community of 374 homes has seen 58 cases of dengue, among the highest number in Shah Alam.

Anjung Sari, Setia Alam is under siege.Anjung Sari, Setia Alam is under siege.

According to residents of Anjung Sari, the place has always been a hotbed of dengue but in recent months, the number of cases have shot up.

Rasib Abdullah, 68, and his family, know too well the pain that dengue brings. Four members of the family spent the run-up to Hari Raya Aidilfitri in the hospital.

"I was admitted to hospital for a week until April 4, and my wife was admitted from April 3 to 7.

"My son (aged 23) was in the hospital from April 2 to 7 and then my daughter (aged 29) a few days after that," he said.

Rasib said this was also not his first time in the hospital for dengue.

"I was infected in April of 2022 and this was my second time. It took me longer to recover this time around. I felt more lethargic and weak.

"My daughter is also still feeling the effects and has not fully recovered," he said.

Rasib said several of his next-door neighbours had also come down with dengue.

"There have been cases all along my street. It is very worrying," he said.

The dengue cases plaguing Anjung Sari in Setia Alam is symptomatic of Malaysia's nationwide grapple with the disease.

Selangor, the dengue capital of Malaysia

According to the Health Ministry, of the 80 localities detected as dengue hotspots throughout the country during the Epidemiological Week 16 from April 14 to 20, 67 - or close to 84% - were in Selangor.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan said the other localities were in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya (seven each), Perak (two), Kedah (two), Penang (one) and Sarawak (one).

"The number of dengue cases has been on the rise with 2,321 cases reported on Epidemiological Week 16 compared to 1,698 cases the week before.

"The number of dengue cases nationwide was at 50,650 compared to 35,202 cases over the same period last year.

"There have also been 39 fatalities this year compared to 22 deaths over the same period last year," he said in a statement on April 29.

It's not just Malaysia which is seeing a hike in dengue cases, with cases more than doubling in Singapore, while Vietnam, and Indonesia have seen three-fold increases.

Another resident, S. Sandra, 67, learned she was infected on March 12 after having a mild fever for a few days.

"I usually walk my dog in the evening and there are mosquitoes everywhere, biting my arms and legs. When the doctor told me I had dengue, I was not surprised.

"Luckily I did not need to be admitted to the hospital," she said, adding that she required a week of rest in bed before being given the all-clear.

Sandra said that her son has since got her a mobile mosquito repellent device to take on her daily walks.

Fighting back

Anjung Sari's residents' association - Persatuan Penduduk Perdana (PPP) - has been doing what it can to control the outbreak.

Its chairman Lee Chee Hung said several factors have contributed to the rise in dengue cases in the area.

"There have been a number of house renovations here with foreign workers staying inside the unfinished houses while they work."

"We also have residents who grow plants and trees outside their houses which are not kept properly."

"All these places became easy breeding spots for the Aedes mosquitoes so we have been working to clear the bushes and trees as well as ensuring that renovation sites are kept clean", he said.

According to PPP secretary Yeoh Eng Leong, the RA has also employed a pest control company to conduct regular fogging and larviciding in the housing area.

"We have also been asking residents to look into their own homes and make sure there are no places for the mosquitoes to breed," he said.

"Abandoned lots also become breeding grounds," Yeoh said, adding that there was another major breeding area for the Aedes mosquito, a spot right in the centre of Anjung Sari.

A plot of private land has been left abandoned for over 10 years after the construction of a clubhouse for the housing area was halted.

"It is covered in overgrowth and rubbish, and when it rains, there are puddles. It is easy for the mosquitoes to breed."

"We have tried to get the developer to clear the area. But nothing has been done. We even tried to clean up the plot ourselves but we were threatened with legal action," he said.

A Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) spokesperson however denied that the abandoned plot was the main cause of the dengue outbreak.

"We and the Health Department conducted checks in the areas and found that the main cause of the outbreak is not the abandoned plot of land."

"There are puddles of water but the land does not have any trees or shade so mosquito larva will not survive in the hot sun," said the spokesperson.

The Health Department had also inspected several houses and issued fines to residents after Aedes larvae were detected.

"We have also done fogging in the affected area and urged the residents there to spend 10-15min every week looking around their houses to ensure there are no pools of water for the mosquitoes to breed."

Stop at source: Yeoh pointing at a potential breeding ground for Aedes mosquitoes at the abandoned lot in Anjung Sari, Shah Alam.Stop at source: Yeoh pointing at a potential breeding ground for Aedes mosquitoes at the abandoned lot in Anjung Sari, Shah Alam.

"We are also engaging with the RA to hold a 'gotong royong' to clear any rubbish or debris in the area," said the spokesperson.

However, mosquito control expert Dr Lee Yean Wang said that while the plot of land may not be the main cause of the current outbreak, it could serve to be a refuge for mosquitoes, ensuring the infection is never fully eradicated from the area.

"It is true that the Aedes larvae need shade to grow and mature, but it does not need a lot of shade, like from a tree," he said when contacted.

Small pockets of water among rubbish - like in a discarded soda can - is more than enough for the Aedes to breed, he said.

"There are also plastic construction barriers left there which can easily be breeding spots," he said.

He added that the Aedes mosquito was resilient and would lay its eggs even when there was no water.

"Even during dry weather spells, it would lay its egg that can survive for six months without water."

"When it does rain, the egg will hatch and grow into a mature mosquito in five days instead of the usual seven days," he said.

Dr Lee also said that fogging alone would not be effective in stopping the outbreak.

"Aedes mosquitoes are good at hiding and avoiding the chemicals sprayed during fogging. They will usually fly into houses and avoid the outdoors when they detect the chemicals," he said.

Like the Health Department, he had one fail safedengue advice - the people have to inspect and ensure that their houses are clean and do not contain any puddles of water where the Aedes could breed.

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Dengue , Selangor , Setia Alam , Aedes mosquito , Fogging

   

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