The Serious Business Of Dengue Prevention

Dengue 2016 Launch
Minister Masagos Zulkifli and others help hold up the banner showing the 5-step Mozzie Wipeout

It’s been a few years since I’ve been involved with the dengue prevention campaign, and you would think with a couple of years, the disease would have been controlled, or even eradicated.

Unfortunately, dengue fever is still prevalent. In fact, the number of dengue cases in Singapore is expected to hit 30,000 this year – higher than the record in 2013 when 22,170 cases were reported. And it’s come with a couple of challenges:

  • The Zika virus now making news around the world and akin to dengue fever, Zika is also carried and transmitted by the Aedes mosquito;
  • Campaign fatigue among people who are so accustomed to hearing about dengue this and that, that they become blasé about what needs to be done to prevent the disease from causing harm to them and our community.

But here’s the thing about dengue – prevention is, quite practically, in our hands. Essentially, the best way to prevent dengue is to prevent the breeding of its carrier, the Aedes mosquitoes, through the 5-Step Mozzie Wipeout, which can be incorporated into our daily household routine. The steps entail removing stagnant water in our homes, which are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes, to break the Aedes mosquito’s breeding cycle. By doing that, we can stop dengue transmissions through the bite of these pesky insects.

This year’s dengue campaign launch repeated previous campaigns’ exhortation to do the Mozzie Wipeout, but this time to consciously do it for 14 days – to effectively break the breeding cycle of the Aedes mosquito. To take effective control of the dengue situation, a penalty for households found to be breeding mosquitoes was also announced.

A few things of interest about the Aedes mosquitoes and dengue:

  • Only the female Aedes mosquito bites (because it needs the protein in our blood to develop its eggs).
  • The mosquito becomes infective about 7 days after it has bitten a person carrying the virus.
  • The mosquito is more prone to biting at dawn and dusk.
  • The average lifespan of an Aedes mosquito is two weeks, and during this time, it can lay eggs about three times.
  • Eggs can remain dormant in dry conditions for up to 9 months, after which they can still hatch if exposed to favourable conditions, i.e. water and food.

With that in mind, I’m going around the house to check for and remove potential breeding spots – like on our BBQ canvas sheet cover at the balcony, potted plant bases, our (not used often enough) bicycles, which may have tiny nooks where leftover rainwater may accumulate.

The other thing I’m concerned with is that many of us delegate our household chores to our hired help, and dengue prevention tasks like the 5-Step Mozzie Wipeout may be one of the chores that can be overlooked at times. I’m quite keen to make sure that this is done myself even if we have help at home.

For us, dengue prevention is a serious business, as I’ve reminded everyone over the years, our now 7-year-old son had to have two blood transfusions at 8 weeks old due to dengue fever. So he’s going to go around our apartment and do the Mozzie Wipeout with me regularly as well.

It’s no joke – there have been more than 5,900 reported cases of dengue since the beginning of the year. So get on it now, and make the Mozzie Wipeout part of your household routine.

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Enough With The Nostalgic Videos Already

I watched the LTA Bus Story Virulent Video and disliked it very much. I’ve had it with these nostalgia exploiting commissioned stories. But let me tell you my memory of buses from when I was a child.

I watched the LTA Bus Story Virulent Video and disliked it very much. I’ve had it with these nostalgia exploiting commissioned stories. But let me tell you my memory of buses from when I was a child.

I lived on Pasir Panjang Road, across from the police station, behind which was a beach. It was an idyllic place – there was a little jetty where fishing boats unloaded their catch, which was sold at Ah Heng’s fish shop on the corner of Pasir Panjang and Clementi Roads.

Right outside our bungalow on Pasir Panjang Road was a bus terminus. In those good old days, this was simply where buses stopped at the end of their assigned routes. There was a little structure where bus conductors busied themselves, I believe, with replenishing their bus tickets and other administrative matters. Bus drivers, who weren’t called captains then, would smoke, standing or squatting on the five-foot way on the other side of our garden’s brick wall. I could hear them clearing their throats and spitting. Sometimes, cigarette butts would end up in our garden.

Often, there would be too many buses that had finished their route and had to stop at this terminus, and our gate would be blocked. My father then had to go to the police station to complain and the policemen, yes, who wore shorts, would have to coax the bus drivers to move their buses so we could leave or enter our driveway.

One day, while we were going out, there was a terrible crash, and some frightening wailing, and I saw, lying on the ground in a growing pool of blood, an elderly man with a horrific head wound. Our path was blocked by the accident, and I was transfixed as I saw the SBS bus reverse away from the dead man.

So yeah, that’s my earliest memory of our buses. Now go make that a viral video.

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Thank you ACS

I wasn’t in ACS when I was in primary school, and so when I qualified via PSLE to get attend secondary school there, I was thrilled because my Sunday School friends were all ACS boys. And I was terrified, because I hadn’t been an ACS boy.

A smaller turnout for the Class of '85. But we were still the rowdiest.
A smaller turnout for the Class of ’85. But we were still the rowdiest.

I wasn’t in ACS when I was in primary school, and so when I qualified via PSLE to get attend secondary school there, I was thrilled because my Sunday School friends were all ACS boys. And I was terrified, because I hadn’t been an ACS boy.

It took a couple of months in Sec One before I acclimatised, and began talking the talk thanks to teachers whose names I still remember – Mrs Evelyn Wee – English and Form Teacher; Mr Navaratnam, Science Teacher, whose first comments at lab period was to joke that the ACS lab was so old, the equipment was donated by Sir Stamford Raffles; and Mr Jagmohan Singh, History Teacher, who, apart from teaching us how to pronounce “King Nebuchadnezzar”, also famously described anthropological development thus: “the more civilised we are, the donkeyer we become”.

I am forever grateful for the liberal education I received in my seven years at ACS/ACJC, and even more thankful for the fast friends I made, and with whom I still work and play. It was a special place, this place of learning – and we were the lucky few in the 1980s who were assigned ‘native speaker’ teachers from all over the UK who brought with them their knowledge, culture and quirks and opened our eyes to the world.

We were the lucky few who were taught the difference between passing exams and learning, and more specifically, I remember a teacher preparing us for the AO Level General Paper exams which were to be marked by teachers in the UK. He said to ‘give them something to keep them warm, because they’re marking your papers in the cold of winter. Write about your hawker centres, your spicy foods, your sunshine and your tropical storms. I guarantee you you’ll score an A’.

So, thank you very much, Anglo-Chinese School for teaching us to tell our own stories. And congratulations on getting to a hundred and thirty. #TBIYTB

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Surprising Sembawang

What was more interesting when we shot the video, was how the bunch of sixty-something year old uncles and aunties were enjoying the spring, soaking their feet in plastic wash basins and buckets filled with hot spring water.

Sembawang Onsen

A video posted by Benjamin "Mr Miyagi" Lee (@miyagisan) on

I visited Sembawang Hot Spring for the first time last Friday because I had written it into a video script.

It’s the only natural hot spring in Singapore, and you can read about its properties on Wikipedia. What was more interesting when we shot the video, was how a bunch of sixty-something year old uncles and aunties were enjoying the spring, soaking their feet in plastic wash basins and buckets filled with hot spring water. The aunties were fully clothed, but the uncles went around bare-chested. Later on, the uncles took turns to soak their whole selves in used chemical drums filled with the water.

One of the uncles appeared to have been a practitioner of a sort of therapy. He would massage the limbs of the aunties who were there, asking them to relax, stretch and flex their joints for about fifteen minutes per aunty-patient. There was one aunty who appeared to be more afflicted with something than the others, because not only did Therapy Uncle have to massage her limbs, most of her torso had to be handled by his hot hands as well. It must have hurt a bit, because there was quite a bit of shrieking.

Now that Sembawang Hot Spring is done from my bucket list of local things to do, I’m looking forward to eating some famous Sembawang White Bee Hoon. That’s right, I’ve never had it. I always thought all bee hoon was white.

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The Public Service Paperweight Award

Some time in the early 90’s my father was given a public service award for his contributions to education. It came as a surprise to all of us, since he never mentioned anything about it, and the only times we saw him getting close to education was when he signed our school report cards.

He explained that over the years, he had been donating money to a Chinese school affiliated with one of the Hainanese clans in Singapore. He also said it wasn’t a big deal, but I’m sure it was – because no ordinary donor would have been shortlisted for a public service award.

When he received the invitation to the ceremony, he showed it to me and asked me if he should attend. I said, “Why not? You deserve it”.

He went, came home, and I asked him how it was. He said, “Nothing lah. So long the whole thing”.

I asked him to show me the award or certificate he must have received, and he said, “Don’t have lah. They only give me this block of wood”.

He showed me the “block of wood”, and said, “Useless. Can put on your desk”, probably thinking it was a paperweight.

I took the block of wood, removed the ribbon around it, and opened it to show him a medal. We spent the next hour laughing at his silliness.

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