Up close with The Mosquito Hunter, Madam Chua

Challenge trails a vector control officer as she works hard to keep a neighbourhood mosquito-free.
Mdm Chua keeps her eyes peeled for mosquito breeding spots.

The ferocious sun beats down on Madam Chua Hong Eng’s back as she pulls a trolley, which she had modified to carry a metal can containing over four litres of anti-malaria oil.

“Good morning!” she calls out cheerily to a resident at Cheng Soon Crescent. “Have you had breakfast?” Even in the heat, the sprightly 62-year-old never fails to greet everyone she meets.

Six days a week, this Vector Control Officer from the National Environment Agency (NEA) combs through Cheng Soon and a few other estates in Bukit Timah for potential mosquito breeding grounds.

Besides anti-malarial oil, Mdm Chua also uses sand granular insecticide to kill larvae and pupae in mosquito-infested water.
Mdm Chua ventures into an overgrown grass patch. She sprays anti-malarial oil onto potential breeding spots such as tree hollows.
The meticulous officer checks every dustbin she passes for stagnant water.

Mdm Chua is “very hardworking and thorough”, a resident tells Challenge. Watch her work and you will see why. She trains her sharp eyes on every nook and cranny – potted plants, dustbins, sagging canvas sheets, even tree hollows – in search of stagnant water.

When she finds any stagnant water in public areas, she checks for pre-adult mosquitoes (larvae or pupae). If she doesn’t spot any sign of life, she sprays a layer of anti-malarial oil that prevents mosquitoes from laying their eggs. This oil also kills any pre-adult mosquitoes already present.

Walking along Eng Kong Drive, Mdm Chua makes a sudden stop – she has spotted a mosquito-infested potted plant outside a home. A mass of wriggling larvae and slightly larger pupae is floating just beneath the surface of a pool of murky water in the pot.

She doesn’t immediately kill the larvae since the pot belongs to a resident. Instead, she keys the location of the breeding spot into NEA’s vector control information database using her office-issued PDA. This alerts her supervisors who are trained to handle such situations. They arrive soon after to meet the homeowner before issuing a warning letter and then treating the affected water with sand granular insecticide.

Apart from having to be patient with residents who break into tirades when reminded to be vigilant about preventing mosquito breeding in their homes, Mdm Chua enjoys her work.

“I like that I can enjoy the sunshine and exercise,” says the hardy officer, for whom retirement is definitely not yet on the cards. “I’m too used to working; I don’t want to suddenly stop,” she explains. “There’s nothing to do at home but stare at the walls!"

    Sep 19, 2013
    Tay Qiao Wei
    John Heng
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