By Joachim Ng
Which household pet is responsible for 2800 people falling gravely ill per week on average? Victims crowd hospital wards seeking treatment, with 20 deaths a month. Just one bite from this pet and you may be put on the drip.
The best way to describe the Aedes mosquito is to call it a household pet or neighbourhood stray. It’s not a wild creature but a domesticated insect that humans breed. While the dog takes you for a walk in the park, the mosquito brings you to hospital or the cemetery.
In the 1960s no one in Perak ever heard of dengue fever. Junior scouts of that era would camp in the school field and never heard a buzz. Today’s juniors go camping in the same field armed with mosquito coil, repellent sprays and battery-operated UV light traps. The alarming rise of dengue since the 1970s is one indicator pointing to the steadily eroding hygiene standards in Malaysia over the past 40 years. Perak has its fair share of cases including deaths, with Kinta district as a top breeder.
There is a 50:50 chance that you are rearing this pet in your home. Quite smartly the larvae don’t float on the surface of stagnant water as they can be swept away, but they grow to maturity at the bottom of your water container in the kitchen, bathroom, or garden. Be very thorough in your weekly cleaning.
The Aedes mosquito is also a neighbourhood stray in that the litter and rubbish you discard on the playground, walkway, grass patch, or into the drain quickly turn into breeding grounds. It’s easy to eliminate this deadly scourge, but year after year all that the Health Ministry can say is: “Oh, dengue is a disease which is difficult to eradicate in a short time.” How can 40 years be said to be a short time?
The Aedes mosquito’s limited flying range confines it to your home or neighbourhood. Hence, the solution is obviously via collective residents action. Amend the Local Government and Housing Act to establish ratepayer committees that will govern their neighbourhoods with funds drawn from the property assessment taxes. Let them hire, monitor, and fire the cleaning service contractors to ensure 4-star hygiene standards in all public areas. As for private dwellings, empower the committees to impose deterrent fines during quarterly anti-mosquito inspections of house gardens accompanied by city health officials.
Without reforming our stagnant political system to encourage non-partisan democratic neighbourhood governance, Malaysians will increasingly be feeling the deadly bite.