Public awareness key in containing Zika


THE rise of the Zika virus in Brazil was highlighted by the Olympic Games but at the onset of its spread for many of us in Sarawak it looked like a far flung menace – too far to be bothered.

We were lulled by a misplaced complacency until Singapore our next door neighbour was hit hard by the virus and already there were cases reported in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah.

Now Zika became a ‘real and present’ danger and it is no longer a question of ‘if’ the vector borne disease would hit our state but when it would rear its ugly head in our midst.

For years we have tried in vain to contain dengue, a disease spread by the same aedes mosquitoes, and now we have to address this new threat from the same source.

It is sobering to think that Singapore, a nation which had reduced its Aedes breeding index in the house or premises from 50 per cent in the 1970’s to only 0.02 per cent in 2013, can be hit so hard by Zika virus spread by the same mosquitoes.

Our situation is compounded by our hot and wet weather in Malaysia which allowed Aedes mosquitoes to breed easily.

The daunting challenge facing us now is how are we to contain the spread of Zika virus when we already have our hands full fighting dengue and facing the threat of a resurgence of Malaria in our state? Obviously our method of containing the spread of dengue fever had at best yielded limited success and at worst a total failure.

Fogging and inspection on breeding places by health officers in premises and compounds are important steps.

Sadly these exercises had led to the public to view the campaigns as ‘government’ responsibilities and their main concern was to avoid fines if their premises were found to be breeding places for mosquitoes.

To enhance the effectiveness of anti-mosquito campaign the authorities concerned must stress on element of awareness.

The public must be made to realise that it is also their responsibility to prevent the spread of aedes mosquitoes.

The people must be willing participants in the campaigns instead of being coerced into taking part in them out of fear of enforcement of the law.

In Singapore this was done through posters calling on the people to fight mosquitoes together put up at housing estates and parks.

These posters must be augmented by talks in schools, factories and neighbourhood gatherings.

Many people in our state are still unaware of the campaign on the prevention of aedes mosquitoes or could be bothered by it.

Many among us are afflicted by the social malaise of not caring about the spread of infectious diseases and pointing fingers at the authorities when they were affected.

They have the attitude that it is not their business if it happened to someone else.

This attitude must change if we were to succeed in containing the spread of Zika virus, dengue and malaria.

The people must participate in the anti-mosquito campaigns.

Inculcating awareness and sense of responsibility among the people are crucial in the fight against aedes mosquitoes.

It is an uphill task but we must take it on if we were to stand any chance in this fight.