Singapore

Pest controller says family worried he'll get Zika

Pest controller involved in anti-Zika fogging operations: It's serious work, but I'm not worried

He's at ground zero, fighting the mosquito scourge first hand.

Despite the growing number of people who have contracted Zika, Mr Andrew Chuck, a veteran in the pest control industry, remains unfazed.

The pest control technician in his 40s told The New Paper: "What's there to be afraid of?"

He likens the fogging equipment and chemicals that pest control technicians use to a giant can of Baygon - a popular insect spray in the market.

"It's like we are carrying Baygon along to spray (the mosquitoes). It's not like Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), where you can't see the virus. You can see the female mosquitoes, and you can hear them make sounds," he said.

Just last week, he was one of eight Empire Cleaning & Pest Control technicians deployed to fumigate the Bedok North Avenue area.

Technicians from two other pest control companies were also involved.

The area was identified as a potential cluster after the Ministry of Health found three previously reported cases living there.

It's been more than a week since the first case of locally transmitted Zika virus was reported.

The number of cases, which has been increasing daily, stood at 258 as of noon yesterday.

Said Mr Chuck: "Of course, our family members are worried that we will be bitten. The mosquitoes carrying the virus will not spare anyone. That's why it's quite serious work...

"I was just telling my brother earlier not to be worried. As long as we are constantly moving, the mosquitoes won't have a chance of biting us.

"Rather than us being scared of being infected, our purpose for going down there is to protect the residents."

Since news of the Zika virus broke, the phone has been ringing off the hook at his company, said Mr Chuck.

"Everyone's worried, and wants to step up on (pest control)," he said.

It's the same at other pest control companies TNP spoke to.

They say there has been a surge in calls asking about fogging and enquiries have risen between 30 and 60 per cent since Aug 27, when news of the first locally transmitted Zika infection broke.

Many people are still taking a wait-and-see approach, say the pest companies, who report an increase in actual jobs of just 5 per cent.

TEMPORARY

Mrs Deanne Ong, director of Origin Exterminators, 42, said fogging has its limitations.

"It only kills the adult mosquitoes at the location and brings down their numbers, but that is only temporary. A few days later, the larvae will emerge as adult mosquitoes and replace the dead ones," she said.

"In the long run, we still need to get rid of the breeding grounds to ensure that there are no more mosquitoes."

Pest controllers also need to spray chemicals in drains and potential water-logged areas to prevent breeding, she said.

Even with all the fumigation work, Madam Lilian Wong, 39, is still taking precautions. The housewife, who lives in the Bedok North Avenue area, never leaves home without an insect repellent patch.

"Some people may think I'm being kiasu, but it's better to be safe than sorry," she said.

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