As we approach the rainy season, mention of dengue cases become more regular. Dengue is borne by Aedes mosquitoes. One gets infected by dengue when bitten by one of these mosquitoes, then typically exhibit symptoms 4 to 7 days after the bite. Typical symptoms are high fever, muscle and joint pains, pain behind the eyes and rash with red spots. As some of these symptoms are characteristic of the flu, some may not seek treatment early, which become more severe in the form of Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever. Aside from high fever, other symptoms are severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and uncontrolled bleeding, all of which can lead to fatal complications.
As at 6 June 2020, Malaysia recorded 84 deaths due to dengue. In 2019, Malaysia recorded more than 130,000 dengue cases, with 182 deaths. With the Health Minister expecting an increase in dengue cases until September 2020, it is important that everyone takes action in fighting against dengue. How do we go about doing this?
Aedes mosquitoes thrive in areas where there is lack of reliable sanitation, regular garbage collection and areas with stagnant water. Let’s start with our own house: regularly inspect for places that can collect water. For example, watering cans, garden pots, laundry pails, garbage bins or even crevices in the porch due to uneven surfaces. Where possible, ensure that these items are turned upside down, covered or stored inside when not in use, so that there is no possibility for water to collect within that can then become breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes. Regularly check these areas to make sure there is no stagnant water. Some garden pots may not have self-draining holes which means water easily collects within after a heavy downpour. Make it a point to check the pots everyday and tip out excess water. If you are throwing out containers, remember to scrub them to get rid of any mosquito eggs that may be attached to the containers.
Check around your house and your housing areas too. Are there clogged drains or potholes? Call the local council and request for these to be repaired as these will collect water. Or get a gotong-royong movement going to help tidy up your housing area so that there are no stray bottles or cans left around that will collect water, or plastic bags that then clog up drains. If there are unkept public areas, ask the council for help to get those tall grass, weeds and unruly bushes cut and pruned.
Pay special attention to construction sites especially when there is no consistent activity there. Wheelbarrows, cement buckets and other tools can easily collect rain water and without activity, will just stay standing there, making it the perfect breeding ground for Aedes mosquitoes. Contact the council if you notice things that can easily collect water that are just left out in these sites as they would have the authority to go in and check.
If you’re going out, dress in breathable neutral-coloured long sleeve tops and long pants. Apply mosquito repellent so that mosquitoes stay away. It is important that treatment is sought immediately from medical professionals before it is too late.
In these times as the nation is doing well in the fight against coronavirus, let us also make sure we win the fight against dengue with these simple steps above.