With the current worldwide pandemic, it’s no surprise that most Malaysians have been focused on COVID-19.
But while COVID-19 has been taking up all the headlines, there’s another disease that has been working quietly in the background — one that all Malaysians should be familiar with.
Dengue has plagued our country for years, long before COVID-19 ever arrived on our shores. In 2019 alone, the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported no less than 113 deaths due to dengue.
While most of our attention has been taken up by COVID-19, dengue cases have also been steadily rising in the background. According to the Dengue Operations Centre, since the start of the year there have been around 84,924 cases of dengue reported all across the country.
“If you have dengue fever symptoms, seek treatment at the nearest health facility immediately. The enforcement of the CMCO should not be a hindrance to early treatment.” urged Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah during a daily health briefing in Putrajaya earlier this year.
Unfortunately for Unicharm Malaysia’s Marketing Director Makoto Anezaki, when he moved from Japan to Malaysia seven years ago he wasn’t fully prepared for some of the dangers that came with living in a tropical country. Soon after moving in, he became infected with dengue.
“It was a terrible experience,” he recalled. “I remember I could not walk straight and felt strange.”
While some cases are asymptomatic, Anezaki’s was not one of them. Around a week after getting bitten, he began experiencing the first symptoms.
“I felt body aches… I also developed a fever and nausea. At first, I did not know it was dengue… I decided to go to the doctor and my dengue test was positive. I was hospitalised the next day,” he said.
“It was a very tough week, with constant on and off fevers. I felt so weak and I spent most of the time resting… I did not have appetite and energy, and my diet was reduced to mainly water and small portions of rice, fish and vegetables.”
Protecting Our Families from Dengue
Anezaki’s story is by no means unique. Every year, thousands of Malaysian families struggle to keep their homes mosquito-free.
When I was younger, my family lived right across the road from a forested hill. Every night, we had to contend with swarms of buzzing, bloodthirsty mosquitoes flying around. My parents tried everything: screens over our windows, bug spray and mosquito coils in our rooms…
Once, my mum even bought an expensive device that was supposed to scare away mosquitoes by emitting high-frequency sound waves. It didn’t seem to do anything to the bugs themselves, but our dog would howl like mad whenever we turned it on.
In a way, my family could still be considered lucky. Though we had to spray our rooms almost every night to keep the mosquitoes out, unlike Makoto none of us actually got infected with dengue.
A Creative Solution
After his illness subsided, Anezaki was able to safely return home to his family. Yet he couldn’t help worrying about how much worse it could have been if one of his young children had contracted the disease instead.
If he, a grown man, could have been so badly affected by dengue, how much worse would it have been for a child?
“They will not understand the real threat it poses, especially with something so small like a mosquito bite,” he explained. “It’s up to us as parents to do everything in our power to protect and educate them.”
Inspired by his own experiences, Anezaki was driven to find an effective way to protect other families from the scourge of dengue.
“I could not bear to imagine a baby suffering from dengue,” he said. “I started thinking, ‘What if Unicharm could invent a diaper that could protect babies from mosquito bites?’ That would be very helpful to parents, especially to those living around dengue hotspots or those who stay near construction sites.”
MamyPoko has recently released MamyPoko Extra Dry Protect, the world’s first Anti-Mosquito (Antimos) diaper. It uses lemongrass extract — a natural mosquito repellent — to keep the mozzies away and ensure that your baby can enjoy a peaceful night’s rest.
How Can We Keep Our Homes Mosquito-Free?
As we all know, prevention is better than cure. When it comes to dengue, one of the easiest ways to keep yourself and your loved ones safe is to keep your homes mosquito-free.
“Some of the precautions that my family and I take would be to often clean our home to ensure it is dengue–free. We change the plants’ water and clear any stagnant water,” said Anezaki. “When there are no breeding areas, there will be no mosquitoes and consequently, no dengue.”
To protect ourselves and our loved ones, here are some of the measures that we can take to keep the mosquitoes away:
When you go out, make sure to wear clothes that cover your body well. It’s especially important to cover up your hands and feet as that’s where mosquitoes love to bite.
Keep Them Out
Place insect screens over doors and windows to keep them out of your home. You can also hang a mosquito net over your bed to protect you while you sleep.
If there are too many mosquitoes buzzing around, use insect repellent such as mosquito spray or coil to get them to buzz off.
What Else Can We Do?
Dengue is something that has affected all Malaysians in some way or another.
Every school student across the country knows how annoying mosquitoes can be, especially in the early morning or late evening when you’re going to or from school. Even after growing up, how many of us have struggled to fall asleep due to a mosquito buzzing around?
Many Malaysians have resorted to measures such as bug sprays, coils and even more high-tech devices in order to keep our homes mosquito-free. Yet all the fancy devices in the world can’t help if our homes or gardens are full of stagnant water and other mosquito breeding spots.
To protect ourselves and our loved ones from diseases such as dengue, it’s important to take care of both ourselves and our environment. Although Malaysia has an excellent healthcare system, staying vigilant can help us to reduce the chances of getting infected and identify any problems before they get out of hand.