Sunday 4 September 2016

The sting: Is Zika outbreak another sign we're losing the war on dengue?

The Zika has hit the fan.

But not the sports fan.

Remember when people were afraid to go to Brazil for the Rio Olympics because of Zika?

On Friday, the World Health Organisation said no infections were reported among the athletes and visitors during the Games.

So don’t blame Joseph Schooling for the Zika outbreak in Singapore.

We are the new Brazil — minus the giant Jesus statue, Carnival and a few World Cups.

But we do have the Merlion statues, Chingay and a few Malaysia Cups.

So Singapore and Brazil are practically twins. At least fraternal twins.

We even had a major international event where thousands risked infection to attend — the opening of Japanese label Uniqlo’s first global flagship store in South-east Asia at Orchard Central on Friday.

You think beating Michael Phelps in the pool is tough?

Try enduring someone insincerely yelling “Welcome to Uniqlo!” every second you’re in the store for 50.39 seconds.

No $39 jogger pants is worth that. Ooh, elastic waistband.

But unlike Uniqlo, some businesses have suffered since the Zika outbreak as people are avoiding crowds and staying home.

This is the opposite of what I would do since I get more mosquito bites when I’m at home.

Also, I would rather be in a crowd so that the insects have other people’s blood to suck besides mine.

It’s every man for himself.

I guess it’s instinctive for people to avoid crowds when there’s an epidemic. Most of us were probably conditioned to do so by the Sars outbreak of 2003 when hell was other people.

But you can’t get Zika from someone coughing on you.

Perhaps people are paranoid that if you are in a crowd, chances are someone in the crowd could have Zika and a mosquito could bite that Zika-infected person and then bite you.

Whereas if you are by yourself, all the mosquito has to bite is you.

Which is bad but also good because unless you already have Zika, you’re not going to give yourself Zika.

And that’s your excuse for being alone and not that you don’t have any friends.

But Singaporeans have not been advised to avoid crowds or stay home because of Zika.

Though one of the doctors who first raised the alarm about the disease in Singapore, Dr Chi Wei Ming, did advise on Facebook last week:
“Unless you live or work in Sims Drive, Aljunied Crescent, Kallang Way and Paya Lebar Way, avoid these areas. Please do not go to these areas to hunt for Pokemons!”
Hey, doc, thanks for helping us fight the spread of Zika and all that, but, please, the plural of “Pokemon” is “Pokemon”. There is no “s” at the end.

Just like the plural of “sheep” is “sheep”. There is no “sheeps”.

As in “To the mosquitoes, we are all just sheep for the slaughter.”

To avoid getting Zika, basically all you have to do is avoid getting bitten by a mosquito. Of course, that’s easier said than done, even as insect repellent becomes the eau de parfum du jour. (Pardon my French.)

It’s not like before Zika came along, we were letting mosquitoes bite us for fun. It’s not like we suddenly realised, “Oh my god, you mean like having unprotected sex with strangers, getting bitten by a mosquito can actually be bad for us?”

Before the war on Zika, we were already having a war on dengue, both of which are essentially the same thing — a war on the Aedes mosquito.

It’s like waging a war on crimson when we are already at war with the colour red. It’s kind of redundant.

And meanwhile, Selena Gomez is at war with lupus, another disease in the news last week I had to Google.

But the fact that we have to have a war on Zika is an indication of how terribly the war on dengue is going.

Being the hot new disease in town, Zika is hogging the headlines, but dengue remains a more serious problem.

We have had 11,247 dengue cases since Jan 3 the last time I checked, which can be easily converted to a Zika website by just replacing the dengue stuff with Zika stuff. Most of it is mosquito stuff anyway.

Can our war on Zika turn out any better than our war on dengue?

If not, I know one place I can go to escape from Zika-and-dengue-ridden Zikapore — Brazil for the Rio Paralympics, which starts on Thursday.

I must remember to pack my new jogger pants

- Published in The New Paper, 4 September 2016