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.

Local Mosquitoes To Be Made Infertile

Dengue fighter gets up to speed. #mozziewipeout

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

Since May 2014, the NEA has been studying the feasibility of introducing Wolbachia-carrying male Aedes mosquitoes to help suppress the Aedes mosquito population in Singapore. Apparently, when these males mate with the female Aedes mosquitoes, their eggs do not hatch.

Here’s hoping that it all works, and we’re able to make these mozzies lose their mojo. In the meantime, community efforts in eradicating mosquito breeding habitats remain key to preventing dengue.

At the launch of this year’s “Do The Mozzie Wipeout Campaign”, I learnt of the outreach programme targeted at secondary school students in the South West district. Through the initiative, students are equipped with essential information on preventing the vector borne illness at home and at school, They are also tasked to spread the word about dengue prevention to residents living around their schools.

These roving ambassadors are called “Dengue Mobsters”, but don’t be afraid of them when they come knocking on your doors, because they’re not there to mob you – they’re just there to let you know how to prevent the spread of dengue, and give you a to-do list so you can also be a dengue fighter.

School Operations Managers will also have to attend forums to get them up to speed on procedures in the event of dengue outbreaks, as well as preventive measures for school premises.

At the South West of the country, workshops that began in 2013 will also continue to educate residents on maintaining mosquito-free gardens. By the end of May this year, “Garden Sheriffs” will also be trained, appointed, and armed with as much information as possible to stop the breeding of the dreaded Aedes mosquito.

I appreciate how difficult it is to maintain awareness of how dangerous dengue is, especially when the number of reported infections has fallen by 39% since last year. You can have dengue fighter kits packed with things like caps (2014), neck pillows (2015) and other paraphernalia – but it is difficult when people hear the same thing over and over again.

At last week’s launch, Minister Grace Fu and the Mayor of South West CDC were tirelessly going around Bukit Gombak Neighbourhood Centre, meeting people, and handing out these bags and explaining what was in them, including “Aunty, this one cannot eat one ok? It is granular insecticide”.

But please spare a moment to listen or read about preventive measures because there may be something you’ve missed out the last time. Or at least, think about how you can help with the outreach programme. For me, I think we should have forums for domestic helpers at these launches, seeing as how many of us delegate our housekeeping to this essential group of people.

It is also important to know that by far, most of the reported dengue breeding grounds have been in residences, and not construction sites and dormitories, and between February and March of this year alone, breeding habitats found in homes increased by 80%.

So please, for the sake of your families, do the mozzie wipeout, and stay vigilant.

Goodie Bags For To Fight Dengue With!
Goodie Bags For To Fight Dengue With!

Uncle gives up and takes a picture of a picture of mosquitoes instead. #mozziewipeout

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

1 Million kg Challenge: Update

IMG_2942

OK the fortnight is almost up, and I think I’ve lost the Blogger Challenge component (to get as many people to sign up for the 1 Million kg challenge) of the campaign.

That means a forfeit. Of me wearing spandex and doing yoga or some other exercise designed to make me look more ridiculous than I already do. So please, if you want to save your eyes and those of the nation, do your part and let me not be last if there’s still time.

Being a part of this campaign has been interesting. Not least because I got my friends thinking about what they’re eating and what they’re doing about their health. I get lunch reports from friends telling me what they’ve had and what they’ve cut out. A fried chicken meal is now had apologetically.

Last week, a friend brought Naomi and I a box of delicious nonya kuehs sprinkled with coconut and guilt.

Personally I don’t believe in putting even more stress on myself when it comes to my own health. I count myself lucky I’m able to enjoy tasty and unhealthy goodies once in a while, and in moderation. But to be able to do that requires a little bit of thought into what I’m eating.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with having pre-diabetes and I’m quite sure if I hadn’t modified my diet then, I’d have upsized it to full diabetes by now. I’m now so used to not having soft drinks or any drinks with added sugar that the last time I had a gingerale, I had a stomach ache for a whole night. Most days now, the drink accompanying my meal is a glass of water or a cup of unsweetened tea.

It pays to be mindful, and I’m glad we eat healthily in our household. I know it’s hard to change our mindsets – but like the proliferation of soup stalls shows, once we create the demand for healthier food, the supply will follow.

If the 1 million kg challenge is new to you, or your friends, sign up, and sign them up. Oh lordy save me.

Good Things Must Share: Lim’s Soup (The Art Of Soup)

photo 4
There’s been a surge in soup shops across the CBD in the past two years, catering to workers’ increasing preference for healthier options. I’ve tried some of these places, and I’ve never gone back to any. Soups dished out from boiling vats are simply depressing, and most of them don’t taste good.

It is difficult finding cheap, healthy, and tasty lunch options, but I think this trinity might have finally arrived in the form of this nondescript food stall in a coffee shop in Bukit Merah Central. Thanks are due to Dr Leslie Tay and the HPB’s 1 Million kg Challenge for bringing us to this place.

Called Lim’s Soup (The Art of Soup), the food stall is lovingly owned and operated by Eric Lim in the day. By night, Eric does something in finance. He didn’t elaborate and I didn’t ask what it is that requires you to work at night in finance, because when you make soup as awesome as his shop does, why would you want to talk about anything in finance?

Soups are different at Lim’s, as Eric explains – there is a science (and and art) to “double-boiling” soup. The indirect heat extracts the flavour of the soup’s ingredients without overcooking (yes you can overcook soup) them. The results are clear broths and subtle flavours that dispense with the need for further seasoning, or god forbid, MSG.

Apart from the soups, Lim’s offer three grained steamed rice with a topping of cabbage as accompaniment, as well as menu items such as steamed minced meats with various toppings like salted egg yolk.

 
photo 1
There’s also a dish of baked rice with salted fish which is probably the best I’ve ever tasted. At other places, you’d probably dig into the dish and bite into chunks of salted fish which kill your tastebuds. Not so with Lim’s version because the salted fish is so finely minced that it infuses the entire dish.
photo 5
The thing that’ll probably make me lim a lot more of Lim’s Soup is that they deliver (if you order a day in advance). They’ll double boil your order and put them in vacuum flasks that will keep your dishes warm for two hours. This is because Eric thinks microwaving your soup to reheat them is an insult to every ingredient in your soup. He’s such a double-boiled soup nazi about it that he’ll let you keep the vacuum flask and only collect them the day after you’ve finished your meal. Now, that’s dedication.

Lim’s Soup (The Art of Soup)
Block 161, Bukit Merah Central
Singapore 150161.
11:30am to 8pm
Closed Sundays and PH
Tel: 83837687