In 2015, an outbreak of dengue fever in Tainan turned into a public health emergency, resulting in a large-scale mobilization of personnel by the EPA and local governments. In addition, the Dengue Fever Central Epidemic Command Center was established by the Executive Yuan to coordinate a nationwide response. This year, the spread of dengue fever has been less severe. However, as typhoons are common in autumn, the EPA is still guiding local governments of high-risk areas in the elimination of mosquito breeding grounds. Experience has shown that concerted efforts by governments and local residents are the best way to control dengue fever vectors.
Of all the mosquito-borne viral diseases, dengue fever spreads most rapidly. It is estimated that 390 million people worldwide contract the disease annually, and over 20,000 of them lose their lives to it. Therefore, dengue prevention and control is drawing more and more attention.
In recent years, there has been a trend toward central and southern Taiwan seeing more cases of dengue fever during summer months. Mobilizing personnel for dengue control has thus become an important task for central and local governments. The main measures being adopted by the EPA are as follows:
Establishing a Legal Basis
In accordance with the Communicable Disease Control Act and the Dengue Fever/Chikungunya Control Guidelines, the EPA has formulated the Dengue Fever Vector Mosquito Breeding Grounds Elimination Plan. The plan involves the EPA supervising and advising local government environmental protection bureaus on working with health and sanitation agencies, assisting in the elimination of mosquito breeding grounds in outdoor public spaces, and helping with emergency chemical control. Public facilities that are found to have not suitably dealt with empty containers that accumulate water, and thus may become mosquito breeding grounds, will be penalized under the Waste Disposal Act.
Integrating Central and Local Government Resources to Eliminate Mosquito Breeding Grounds and Conduct Inspections
• The EPA is implementing its National Multi-tier Dengue Fever Breeding Ground Inspections and Evaluation Plan, and is requesting local government environmental protection bureaus to enhance multi-tier personnel mobilization in their jurisdictions to eliminate breeding grounds. Local governments are also encouraged to take advantage of the existing environmental cleanup days to conduct inspections and eliminate breeding grounds in villages and districts. The EPA is supervising these operations by dispatching personnel to conduct unannounced random follow-up inspections.
• The EPA requests all local government environmental protection bureaus to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds as soon as possible after a heavy rain and to urge residents to do the same. The EPA’s Northern, Central and Southern Branch of the Bureau of Environmental Inspection also continue to conduct unannounced supervision and inspections.
• The EPA held an interministerial meeting to discuss information management for vacant land and buildings under their jurisdictions. After the meeting, the EPA sent each ministry a copy of the Standard Operating Procedures for the Cleanup of Vacant Land and Buildings under Government Control. The EPA asked related ministries to log on to the EPA’s EcoLife website and key in the information of the properties under their jurisdictions. This measure aims to ensure that each ministry thoroughly eliminates all dengue vector breeding grounds on the premises in question.
• The EPA also convened a meeting to discuss the timetable for the implementation of the Mosquito Breeding Grounds Elimination Plan for Vacant Land, Buildings and Central Government Construction Sites. At the meeting, local government environmental protection bureaus were asked to enhance their inspections, follow-up inspections, reporting, and penalty issuance for the central government’s vacant land and buildings in their administrative areas so as to thoroughly eliminate all dengue vector breeding grounds.
The EPA has begun enforcing its Random Environmental Inspection and Alert Standards. The Bureau of Environmental Inspection will start to conduct random inspections in districts where the annual total of reported and locally transmitted dengue fever cases exceeds 51. From January 2016 to 14 September 2016, a total of 25,550 sites were inspected, including 830 schools. The inspections reported a total of 122 sites where mosquito larvae were found. Twenty-three of these were among the 830 schools inspected.
Education on and Promotion of Dengue Fever Control
In 2016, the EPA held two training events on eliminating mosquito breeding grounds where 132 people, including village chiefs, local officials, sanitation squads, and community volunteers, learned about potential dengue fever hotspots. The EPA also invited a team of mosquito breeding ground elimination experts to assist in holding 16 hands-on clean-up demonstrations (attended by 1,037 local residents) and 11 educational events on mosquito breeding ground elimination (attended by 4,595 people).
Environmental protection bureaus of local governments have also been actively involved with education on and promotion of dengue fever control. Thus far in 2016, a total of 4,082 educational lectures around Taiwan have been held, with over 52,700 participants attending. In the dengue fever hotspots of southern Taiwan, 86 events were held in Tainan City, 285 in Kaohsiung City, and 254 in Pingtung County, counting a total of 43,000 participants. The EPA also held four training events in Pingtung County and in north, central, and southern Taiwan to enhance the efficacy of chemical control and improve the self-protection skills of sanitation teams.
Education on and Promotion of Dengue EPA to Continue Promoting Environmental Sanitation and Elimination of Mosquito Breeding Grounds to Control Dengue Fever
The dengue epidemic spread suddenly in July 2015, pushing the number of diagnosed dengue fever cases for the year to over 43,000. The first case of 2016 was reported on 19 July in Kaohsiung City, showing that the disease is still a cause for concern. Considering that every time a typhoon hits Taiwan, large volumes of rainwater accumulate and provide ideal breeding grounds for dengue vectors, the EPA has brought together 10 experts to form the Dengue Fever Breeding Ground Elimination Consulting Team. This team will educate and guide local authorities in high-risk areas on how to eliminate vector breeding grounds and improve management of local environments.
Another measure that the EPA has adopted in the fight against dengue fever is the Dengue Vector Mosquito Breeding Grounds Elimination Self Checklist, which members of the public can now download from the EPA’s EcoLife website. Moreover, if members of the public discover untidy outdoor areas that could become mosquito breeding grounds, they can be reported through the EcoLife website. In addition, an app can be downloaded that allows immediate reporting to the EPA, which in turn will quickly dispatch personnel to deal with the problem.
The EPA has also established the Safe Use of Environmental Agents website (http://mdc.epa.gov.tw/EVagents/EVSecurity/EVIndex.aspx) to provide information on common household pests and to give some principles for buying and safely using pesticides against such pests. The EPA is keen to stress that successful control of dengue fever mosquitoes requires the combined efforts of both the government and the public. The risk of dengue fever can only be minimized by improving environmental sanitation and tidiness, with the use of pesticides as a supplementary measure to thoroughly eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)