Call for action to prevent infections

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 4:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 4:02am

Hongkongers are well aware of the perils of diseases spread by mosquitoes and other insects but are getting lax when it comes to preventing them, a Health Department survey shows.

Cases of dengue fever, one of the most common such vector-borne diseases, are on the rise locally and around the world, said director of health Dr Constance Chan Hon-yee. She said increasing rainfall, caused by climate change, might be to blame.

"Though most of the dengue fever cases in Hong Kong are imported, there is a risk of local cases because Hong Kong has the vector mosquitoes," Chan said.

The World Health Organisation has made vector-borne diseases - illnesses carried and spread by creatures such as mosquitoes - the theme of this year's World Health Day on Monday. About half of the world's population is exposed to such diseases, which kill one million people each year.

The department interviewed about 2,000 people, of whom more than 80 per cent correctly said that preventing mosquito bites would prevent dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis.

Asked what they would do to prevent the diseases, however, just 49 per cent said they would apply mosquito repellent when travelling in tropical or subtropical areas, down from 55 per cent in a 2003 survey. The proportion who would change the water in flower vases once a week was down to 90 per cent, from 95 per cent in the earlier survey.

Assistant director of health Dr Anne Fung Yu-kei said such simple measures could help prevent infection. She also urged people to wear long sleeves and light-coloured clothes to prevent mosquito bites when outdoors.

There were 103 cases of dengue fever in Hong Kong last year, increasing from 53 in 2012. Chan said the increase reflected an international trend. In all 103 cases, the disease was contracted abroad. Ten cases have been reported this year, including two, contracted in Indonesia, reported yesterday.