Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - Page 4 News List

EPA confers with health authorities to step up battle against dengue in south

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) officials yesterday met with their counterparts at the Ministry of Health and Welfare and at local agencies to discuss prevention and control measures to contain the dengue fever outbreak sweeping southern Taiwan.

The EPA promised to help local authorities eradicate mosquito breeding sites and crack down on residents keeping containers holding stagnant water — the perfect breeding ground for the insects.

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s weekly investigation, 20 new dengue cases — one in Greater Tainan and 19 in Greater Kaohsiung — were confirmed between Tuesday last week and this Monday, two of which turned out to be fatal.

As of Monday, the number of confirmed dengue cases had hit 11,953, all but 227 of which were reported since the beginning of this summer, the data showed.

The EPA earlier ordered local environmental protection agencies to redouble their efforts to eliminate possible mosquito breeding sites, which resulted in more than 3.89 million spare containers and 69,000 discarded tires being removed as of last month.

Nationwide, there were 985 reports of containers or old tires holding stagnant water as of last month, resulting in 694 violators being fined a combined NT$1.06 million (US$34,444), it said.

EPA Department of Environmental Sanitation and Toxic Substances Director-General Yuan Shao-ying (袁紹英) said the agency launched a cross-inspection mechanism in April to streamline prevention and control efforts between boroughs, villages, municipal governments and the agency.

The mechanism consists of three stages: cross-inspection between boroughs and villages; follow-up inspections by local environmental protection officers; and surprise inspections by the EPA, of which there have been 103 so far, he said.

Given the severity of the outbreak, Yuan said he and other EPA officials visit Greater Kaohsiung on a weekly basis to ensure that anti-dengue measures are being enforced there.

Meanwhile, EPA Minister Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥) said the Kaohsiung City Government’s experimental program to kill mosquito larvae by flushing the city’s drainage system with sea water could cause problems since the water’s high salinity could corrode metal infrastructure such as underground pipelines.

The sea water could also kill other organisms and pose a threat to the local ecosystem, he said.

Citing articles about the experimental program written by academics, Wei also expressed concern that seawater pumped into the sewers would end up being so diluted with drain water that it would not be effective at killing mosquito larvae.

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