Feature: Vietnam's war against mosquitoes heating up

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-30 23:42:39|Editor: yan
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By Tao Jun, Dong Hua

HO CHI MINH CITY, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- Passersby in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City cannot fail to notice a huge roadside banner with its white words written in large capitalized letters against a blood-red background.

The words on the signboard read: "Dengue fever hotbed." However, few know that it was erected in mid-August after a local woman died of the mosquito-borne tropical disease.

The banner was erected near the woman's house by the Preventive Medicine Center in the city's Hoc Mon district after the 43-year-old woman in the district's Dong Thanh commune died of dengue fever several days after contracting the virus through mosquito bites.

Dengue fever has so far this year affected nearly 100,000 people across Vietnam, of whom 26 have died, according to Vietnam's Ministry of Health.

In addition to the big white phrase in capitalized letters, the sign in Ho Chi Minh City has three smaller white sentences written in lowercase stating: "Kill mosquitoes daily. Detect and destroy larvae weekly, and go to a medical station or hospital immediately for a checkup if you have a fever."

The warning is part of a nationwide war against dengue fever, which has affected those from all walks of life, from a deputy prime minister and health minister, to little boys and girls at primary schools.

On Sunday, Ho Chi Minh City's Department of Health, in coordination with the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment, launched a city-wide campaign called: "Killing larvae to prevent dengue fever."

Under the campaign, which will last until the traditional New Year Festival in February 2018, preventive medical staff and volunteers have been organized into groups or teams to visit residential areas and spray chemicals and hot smoke to kill mosquitoes, and eliminate the insect's breeding grounds. The groups also persuade local residents to do the same frequently.

On Tuesday, in the city's Binh Chanh district, groups of young people in blue uniforms and green hats went door-to-door, distributing colorful leaflets detailing how to prevent and fight against dengue fever.

"I'm a member of one of 15 voluntary teams in this district. We go to every house to remind people that it is impossible to kill all mosquitoes but it is easy to reduce their populations by killing their larvae and minimizing water environments in which mosquitoes can lay their eggs," Tran Thi Kim Thuong, a second-year university student, told Xinhua on Tuesday, while holding a pile of leaflets in her hands.

After receiving a leaflet from Thuong, a white-haired man sitting on a chair in front of his house said that he is too old and weak for physical work, but he will ask his children and grandchildren to cleanse environments both inside and outside the house.

Earlier, in late July, a working group from the Health Ministry, led by Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, inspected anti-dengue fever activities in Ho Chi Minh City.

The minister went to several households in District 12, checking whether protective measures had been taken or not.

She reminded residents to minimize mosquitoes' breeding grounds by putting water-containing objects upside down when not in use, putting salt in flower vases, and raising specific fish which feed on the larvae.

In the first eight months of this year, Ho Chi Minh City recorded over 13,000 cases of dengue fever, up 28 percent compared to the same period a year earlier, the municipal Department of Health said, adding that of those infected, four had died of the disease.

Meanwhile, the capital city of Hanoi recorded nearly 20,000 cases of dengue fever infections, including seven fatalities.

In late August, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam visited the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, where he praised the efforts of medical establishments and communities in containing dengue fever outbreaks. As a result, fewer and fewer cases of infections have been reported in recent days.

"However, we still have to strengthen our efforts in killing mosquitoes and larvae. We still have to strengthen communications so that residents fully understand the ways of preventing and fighting against dengue fever," he maintained.

One new initiative this year in the war against mosquitoes has been the mobilizing of grade students.

"On Monday, our little daughter brought a paper sheet home from primary school, telling me to fill in a survey so that she could hand it to her head teacher the next day," Nguyen Thi Lan, mother of an eight-year-old pupil attending Dang Tran Con Primary School in Hanoi's Thanh Xuan district, told Xinhua on Wednesday.

The survey has four main columns, pointing out 10 kinds of water-holding objects that often contain larvae, including water tanks, wells and flower pots.

The paper also details 10 respective ways of getting rid of larvae and asks respondents to specify the number of objects mentioned they have in their houses and which ways they have, or have yet to adopt, to get rid of the larvae.

"After receiving replies from grade students' parents, schools will coordinate with preventive medical staff to take suitable measures such as spraying chemicals or hot smoke to kill mosquitoes and their larvae," the mother said, noting that her neighborhood was fumigated by the staff and cleansed by residents themselves last weekend.

Another new effort in the war against dengue fever is sending text messages to mobile phone users.

Over the past few weeks, subscribers of mobile phone operators such as VinaPhone and Viettel have received text messages calling for them to apply four measures to prevent dengue fever infections.

These include avoiding being bitten by mosquitoes, actively cleaning up waste and killing larvae, coordinating with healthcare facilities during the process of spaying mosquito-killing chemicals, and going to the nearest medical establishments for consultation, checkup or treatment when showing symptoms of dengue fever.

The Health Ministry's Preventive Medicine Department also called for people nationwide to actively cleanse the breeding grounds of mosquitoes and use mosquito nets when sleeping.

Both healthy people and dengue fever patients should use mosquito nets when sleeping, health officials have advised, because mosquitoes can bite already infected patients, carry the dengue virus and transmit it to healthy people through bites or transfer the virus to their eggs and their larvae.

Everyone should be on high alert, because to date, there are no vaccines against dengue fever, and the disease often becomes more serious when climate and weather patterns change, said Nguyen Trung Cap, a doctor at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases.

And some human activities create favorable conditions for mosquitoes to multiply, the doctor said, adding that everyday the hospital receives hundreds of people for dengue fever checkup or treatment.