What’s the most dangerous creature in the world? Some might say it’s lion or tiger. But if you ask Hongkongers now, they may probably pick mosquitoes, given the dengue fever outbreak in the city.
Yellow Fever, malaria, dengue and Zika Virus are all transmitted by mosquitoes.
It’s estimated globally that a million people are killed every year by illnesses caused by mosquitoes.
World Health Organization Data shows there were 212 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2015, and 429,000 people were killed, despite various measures being adopted to control the infection.
The Zika Virus causes microcephaly for unborn babies. WHO estimated that around 4 million people were affected last year alone.
Globally, research institutes have developed various technologies to help in the fight against mosquitoes, such as big data and gene technologies to stem the creatures at the source.
In the past couple of years, the capability to collect and analyze data has strengthened considerably.
Systems consisting of advanced cameras and image sensors produce enormous data. These data can be used to forecast the reproduction of mosquitoes and their flight routes, allowing health officials to analyze potentially affected areas and also take preemptive actions.
In 2011, Pakistan’s Lahore was hit by the worst dengue fever outbreak in its history. There were 16,000 cases, which killed 352 people. After that, authorities used a Google tool to develop an algorithm system to track and project potential outbreak in the region.
The government was able to eradicate mosquitoes speedily in high-risk areas. As a result, the region only registered 234 cases the following year without any fatal case.
In mainland China, it’s reported that authorities are developing highly-sensitive radar to detect mosquitoes flying two kilometers away. The system can detect the type, gender, speed, direction, etc. Such advanced technology would be very helpful for mosquito control.
But in Hong Kong, we are still using the Monthly Average Ovitrap Index, which is a rather obsolete approach. Worse, the government publishes the monitoring data with a delay, which makes real-time monitoring difficult. It’s hardly surprisingly that the effectiveness of the anti-mosquito work is compromised.
If authorities are serious about building Hong Kong into a smart city, they should perhaps start with applying new technologies to mosquito control.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 24
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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