Tue, Oct 03, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Government launches new plan to fight dengue fever

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Facing an already severe dengue fever season, the government is making great efforts to keep the spread of the potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease under control.

As of yesterday morning, there had been 282 reported cases of dengue fever this year in Taiwan, most of which occurred in the Kaohsiung area.

"People have yet to realize the seriousness of the dengue fever situation this year," according to Minister of Health Hou Sheng-mao (侯勝茂).

"We've known since June that this [was] going to be a bad year. In fact, it reminds me of the year 2002," he said, referring to a dengue outbreak four years ago that sickened 5,336 people and caused 21 deaths.

Hou appealed to citizens to adopt a proactive approach to dengue prevention.

"There is only one way to beat dengue fever, and that is to stamp out the mosquito breeding grounds," he said.

To help combat the disease, the Legislative Yuan has also established the Central Dengue Fever Control Commanding Center.

According to Hou, the formation of the center will help marshal resources and coordinate action across different government departments and municipalities.

He also saw this campaign as a learning experience for further challenges that might lie ahead in the area of disease control.

"Bird flu is a constant threat," Hou said.

"If we are ever hit with an outbreak, we will have the experience of acting quickly and centrally under our belt," he said.

"The deputy head of the CDC, Chou Chih-hao (周志浩), spoke of the government's novel and more aggressive approach toward dengue prevention.

"Those who allow mosquito breeding grounds to persist on their property or ... who hamper public sanitation efforts are now liable to be fined," he said.

According to Chou, it is not possible to eradicate the disease from Taiwan completely.

"Although they are not as active during the winter, mosquitoes survive from year to year," Chou said.

"Even an outbreak-free year does not signal that dengue fever has died out completely," he said.

The objective of the new anti-dengue center is to keep the number of cases below 500 this year -- roughly one tenth the number of infected individuals five years ago.

Chou, however, acknowledges that it is an ambitious goal.

"We are bracing ourselves for a warm winter," he said.

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