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

More than half of toys tested unsafe

The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) tested a basket of 50 toys sold in Singapore, and more than half were found to be unsafe. Naomi and I are not surprised.

But what I’d like to know is, what kind of crap toy is this?

The pictorial list of toys is here, and I kinda agree with the toy gun / cuff set being unsafe. A friend of mine handcuffed himself to the fence when he was five years old, and was only released by his laughing parents when they got home several hours later.

A few days later, he shot himself in both nostrils with the dart gun. Actually, he was the sort of kid who’d manage to injure himself even if you put him in a straitjacket in a padded room.

Prosperity first, life second

Safety first for what?

We saw this sign at a construction site. I think it was an MRT excavation site.

It all makes sense now – “Safety first for our prosperity”. Safety’s good for business. Doesn’t slow things down. Like when the highway caves in, or when cranes collapse. Nothing to do with the lives of the workers, who get ferried to and from work on very dangerous modes of transport anyway.

Ikea TampinesToday, while helping Naomi’s mum shop for things at IKEA Tampines (honest, we only bought two, three things for ourselves), I realised this problem was endemic. People simply don’t care about their kids’ safety.

Kids were simply running amok today (that sounds like an IKEA product too, “amok”), pushing each other in the trolleys and tearing down the aisles of the self serve areas where people were struggling to load shelves and other things on their trolleys. You might think it cute to hear little feet pitter pattering about, but it won’t be so cute when they go pitter patter pitter splatter.

Plus, being a Saturday, there were thousands of people there, several hundreds more than there were at the Singapore International Film Festival’s opening at Lido the night before. So, as you can imagine, it really was quite dangerous for the little ones to be running around.

So, this is what I want to say to parents of young children in Singapore:

If you really have to bring your young kids to IKEA for some reason or other (they can’t really be helping you carry your Fakum glasses and Rektum vases), keep them close to you.

Don’t let them run around where large boxes of unassembled Epileptik lights or Hemoroyt sofas can fall on their heads.

It’s ok if you want your kids to grow up as dumb as you. But it’s not fair for them to grow up dead. It’s not their fault because they don’t know better because they’re kids.

So please. Safety first, for yours and your kids’ lives. Can?