by Bertha Henson
If anyone still thinks that dengue fever is just a fever that happens to someone else, Singapore’s first dengue death of the year should make people scramble to change the water in their vases.
Dengue numbers this year are expected to break the record. Already, more than 8000 people have been infected with the mosquito-borne virus this year. Last week, 641 people were infected. Since Sunday, another 458 have fallen, according to ST today.
Yet through the months, there have been complaints of people being unwilling to open their doors for inspection and calls for heavier penalties to compel them to do so. It appears that getting rid of the Aedes mosquito isn’t as simple. People just aren’t shocked enough to take action. Ironically, it could be because our doctors have been particularly good at treating patients and stopping people from dying of mosquito bites. Since it doesn’t look like a fatal disease, but a “fever’’ which is “curable’’, it doesn’t have the same impact as, say, a SARS virus. Plus, it’s not contagious.
Perhaps, the death of 20-year-old Ang Yong Han will compel people to look at the mosquito as more than just a pesky nuisance. It’s worth reminding people that in 2007, a total of 20 people died from the bite. What’s of greater shock value is how bad a dengue fever can get. Dengue haemorrhagic fever causes internal bleeding. Dengue shock syndrome causes the internal organs to shut down.
Read The New Paper for details on how Mr Ang died, and how his parents had to watch him suffer. On the first day of his admission into hospital (for the second time), he was so feverish he felt like he was bursting into flames, he was vomiting and his body ached. By the second day, he couldn’t talk, couldn’t open his eyes and his body had bloated. This was despite aggressive blood transfusion treatments, organ systems support and close monitoring, according to a doctor reported in TODAY. In his last moments on the third day, he couldn’t recognise his family members. He died.
The next question people will have is, where did he live? Answer: Block 103, Hougang Avenue 1. Two other people living within 150m of his home have also come down with dengue, ST reported.
With this death, calls of more stringent checks and heavier penalties will get louder. Questions will be asked about National Environment Agency’s public messaging. Those posters and banners are everywhere, but are people really reading them?
Here’s a suggestion: try showing video clips at places people congregate, like in churches. These institutions draw in people from the neighbourhood who will be a captive audience in any kind of public announcement exercise. Do NOT attempt to introduce a mascot like Water Wally or Teamy the Bee or Singa the courtesy lion. They either don’t work – or they retire before work is done.
Last but not least, Breakfast Network extends its condolences to the family of Mr Ang.