The worrying connection between durians and dengue

With the start of durian season, there is a noticeable increase in dengue cases as durian shells that are improperly disposed of can become sites for mosquitos to breed in.


Unexpected cause: Durian skin is adding to the dengue problem and proper disposal will help reduce it. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

May 2, 2023

GEORGE TOWN – With durian season fast approaching and dengue cases on the rise, a worrying connection can be made between the two.

The disposal of durian skin may seem simple, but the consequences of any failure to properly do so can be detrimental, said state environment and welfare committee chairman Phee Boon Poh.

He said with the durian season starting by mid-May, there will be gorging galore, with roadside stalls selling the King of Fruits.

“The problem arises when the skin is not properly disposed, as it can become a mosquito breeding ground due to its concave surface.

“It can collect water when there is rain and mosquitoes breed in clear stagnant water.

“This can lead to a higher number of dengue cases,” he said.

Phee said he had proposed to the Penang Island City Council and Seberang Prai City Council that before issuing temporary licences to stall operators, they impose a condition that the skin must be disposed of in a proper manner.

He also proposed that the state Agriculture Department set up a shredding facility in durian orchards.

“It is up to them whether they (the department) want to install it or the orchard owner does so. The bottom line is, the skin must be shredded.

“Roadside traders can collect the skin and place it in a basket which can then be collected and sent to the orchards.

“As they will be receiving their durian supplies from the orchards, it is just a matter of exchanging goods. They can work together as a team.

“There is use for the shredded skin as it can be converted into compost. This will make it a circular process where everything is used,” he added.

Phee said while this might seem like a small issue, there would be rain due to the inter-monsoon season.

“There will be a big impact as we have seen the number of dengue cases on the rise.

“Even if durian skin is disposed of and sent to Pulau Burung landfill, dengue cases can spread from there.

“The best way is to not waste good resources and shred it.

“There are plenty of shredding machines in the market,” he said.

Phee acknowledged that this is not a new idea.

“Many years ago, it used to be done here, but when they (local councils) stopped enforcement, it stopped as well.

“It used to be collected by the local councils years ago.

“I will ask the local councils to consider enforcing this again,” he said.

The number of dengue fever cases reported in the 15th epidemiological week from April 9 to 15 increased by 2.6% to 2,399.

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