Observations of the bug kind

Dengue cases in certain areas in the country are up. What’s puzzling is this is true even for areas where the case is unheard of. Like cooler regions – CAR. One wonders whether climate change is to be cited as cause. Scientists say it might, or not.

The DOH has been urging the population to take precautions including getting rid of stagnant water in or near the house. But the agency (nor DOST) has not mentioned products households use.

Five years now, I’ve observed that fabric softeners – at least with the brands I’ve experimented with – attract mosquitoes. It’s appalling to find a batch of mosquitoes buzzing on your freshly-laundered clothes drying out in the sun. Imagine this event happening in a cluster of houses whose occupants have done their laundry at the same time. There’d be a colony which while they’re in the premises will likely drift away from the clothes to do other activities, like populate in stagnant water.

I’ve initially researched around about the fabric softener-mosquito relationship. And, surprisingly, it does correlate. Bayer says the product could either attract or repel the insect. The US EPA classifies the chemical ABDAC (used in fabric softeners) as toxic pesticide which as a class is known to actually improve bugs’ resistance levels overtime (turning them into super bugs). Reportedly, the US (except for one enterprise) still uses the chemical (relative to Europe which has banned it and switched to an alternative).

This combined with other environmental factors such as ammonium nitrogen in bodies of water – mosquito reproduction is more rapid and higher in these – near residential areas raises the risk of households’ exposure. I’ve mentioned in previous articles here citing the example of Loakan in Baguio City where its rivers and creeks as having been rapidly polluted by industries located within the nearby PEZA (how come industries are allowed to locate at the very heart of residential areas I don’t know). Mosquito population was observed to have risen in the area following the pollution. Applying this to, say, the Metro Manila area – it’s easy to understand how mosquito population in this mega city has risen to alarming levels.

The DOH’ anti-dengue campaign for people to not go outside after 4 PM (Is this the new martial law? To be uttered and by a government agency – is it aware that even as a health recommendation the restriction is against constitutional rights?), to fog, and drain stagnant water as the solutions to eliminate dengue-carrying mosquitoes are suspiciously over-simplistic. This information for instance is ridiculously redundant and does not add to existing knowledge of locals

Dengue usually occurs during rainy season, mostly from the month of June-September, because mosquitoes usually breed in water.

But has the public been informed that

Mosquitoes prefer water sheltered from the wind by grass and weeds. That, there are four strains of the dengue virus. And that the Aedes mosquito which carries the dengue virus does not enter dwellings, prefers to bite mammals, and a flier (can travel miles). This makes dengue a zoonosis. Or, that there is a forest-dwelling counterpart of this dengue-carrying mosquito.

Which explains why water in containers – present in or near households – because of the enclosure is one of the best places to lay its eggs? Swampy areas too. Don’t forget forests – the more polluted the better. And that, transmission of the dengue virus is: infected mammals–>Aedes mosquito–>humans. But there are no roaming mammals in Metro Manila, you say. On the other hand, there’s such a thing as travel — an infected person (from a rural place) travels into the city and spreads the virus or vice versa. At the speed of travel and availability of transportation to all points of the country makes the spread of disease easier and faster. So it’s not just about containers with stagnant water. Further, similar to the transmission of poisons in the food chain, there is cellular mutation overtime as the number of transmissions lengthen and humans who are the end-recipients suffer the highest toxicity level of the virus. In other words, double whammy for humans all the time.

This too

However, data showed that cases are high not only during rainy season which prompted DOH to declare a year-round campaign against dengue.

Well, ammonium-polluted rivers, creeks, and wetlands are year-round occurrence, in so far as nothing yet is done to clean them up or to cap pollution levels of industries or require polluting industries to mitigate, which is why mosquitoes are having the time of their lives breeding and 24/7 at that. Eggs hatch within 24 hours which means at this rate and all factors in their favor they’d be all over the place. Mosquitoes are indeed having a fun time in the Philippines!

Fogging the suspect area or eliminating stagnant water in households is just a fraction of the solution. The large and more insidious aspect of the matter remains largely unknown and undiscussed in public. The problem of dengue involves an ecosystem approach.

But worst of all, this

The most common rainy day diseases in the Cordillera Administrative Region are cough and cold that may lead to flu or influenza and dengue.

One wonders how dengue persists in the country. Given the statement above, it appears that misinformation (or, poorly-stated information) by medical practitioners is one contributory factor.

The public on its part should be more discerning and curious for real preventive, mitigation, and control measures. DOH in tandem with the DOST should be producing more and comprehensive scientific information, communicated in simple terms, for the general public. These agencies, like what the US EPA does, should make health researches and similar publications available to the public. Informed, the public is then able to make good choices. Freedom of information does not only pertain to politics but also to significant social information such as health risks impacting on the public.

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