Manila: Philippine government officials joined their counterparts in 10-member countries of the Association of Southeast Asia (ASEAN) in a campaign to fight the spread of mosquitoes that cause dengue or hemmorhagic fever, to stop the disease from spreading to the entire region, sources said.

Health and social workers began a campaign urging residents to send text messages through their mobile phones to alert health centres nationwide about people suspected of having dengue.

This will help government agencies extend early assistance to suspected dengue victims, said health officials who gathered at the pilot test of the text messaging system approach to stop dengue in San Fernando, Pampanga, central Luzon, the Manila Bulletin said.

The regional campaign, called ASEAN Unity for Dengue-Free Community, is an awareness programme simultaneously undertaken by all local government officials in ASEAN countries.

Apart from seeking an early treatment to dengue victims, the campaign also called on residents (ASEAN-wide) to say no to indiscriminate fogging (use of dangerous chemicals to eradicate mosquitoes in their breeding places), Philippine health officials said.

Meanwhile, Filipinos should start propagating the smaller breed of milk-fish, the country’s national fish, called mosquito-fish because of their rapacious appetite for mosquito larvae. This will help to stop the spread of dengue, Roberto Garcia, a marine expert, told the Inquirer.

This breed of milk-fish, locally known as “tuyong” has been considered a pest because its big appetite for mosquito larvae makes it a rival to the milk-fish that is being propagated by businessmen for commercial use, which also like mosquito larvae, Garcia explained.

Tuyong should be bred in canals and other bodies of water as a “biological control of the deadly mosquitoes,” said Garcia, adding it was originally introduced worldwide to control malaria and was brought to the Philippines in the early 1900s.

Philippine health officials have forgotten about tuyong and they do not know that it could be used to control dengue, Dr Westly Rosario, chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ National Integrated Fisheries Technology and Development Center also told the Inquirer.

This mosquito-eating breed of milk-fish is small, like anchovy, with silvery skin and fan-like tail, said Rosario, adding they thrive when placed in a bucket of water and thrown into canals.

In June, almost all ASEAN countries start suffering from heavy rains which often leave stagnant waters where dengue-carrying mosquitoes multiply.

ASEAN is composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.