Malaysia: '500 dengue cases reported a day'

THARANYA ARUMUGAM New Straits Times 1 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has raised the alarm about dengue outbreak, urging the people and agencies to act urgently to put in place measures to contain the situation before it worsens.

From 2000 to Jan 16 this year, 707,227 dengue cases have been reported with 1,721 deaths.

In 2000, the Health Ministry recorded 7,103 dengue cases and 42 deaths. But merely two weeks into this year, 6,837 cases and 14 deaths were reported, an average of more than 500 cases a day.

Health deputy director-general (public health) Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the main factors contributing to the sharp rise in the disease were poor environmental cleanliness, littering and poor garbage management.

He also cited mobility of the population, high population densities and rapid urbanisation as being other factors.

Aside from that, he said, the El Nino phenomenon that was expected to last until next month would lead to warmer temperatures. Mosquitoes will breed actively, increasing the frequency of mosquito bites and the spread of dengue virus.

“In the dry and hot weather, the life cycle of an Aedes mosquito, from the egg to the adult stage, will be shorter and this will increase the mosquito population.

“The density of Aedes mosquitoes will also increase two weeks after the rainy season, leading to a jump in dengue cases.

“The local authorities should not be (solely) blamed because there are many factors that cause the spike in dengue cases,” he told the New Straits Times.

Dr Lokman said to ensure environmental cleanliness, the local authorities should increase enforcement activities, especially in illegal rubbish dumping sites, and make arrangements for timely garbage collection at least thrice a week.

“Apart from ensuring a proper solid waste management and a clean environment, the authorities should step up dengue control activities, especially in the Klang Valley.

“This involves active participation from the Shah Alam, Petaling Jaya, Kajang, Gombak and Klang municipal councils.

“These are ‘rich’ local authorities and, therefore, they should invest more resources in dengue control activities and implement recycling programmes.”

Dr Lokman said the key strategy to reduce dengue cases was to empower the community through “source reduction” activities and clean-up campaigns.

Global evidence, he said, showed that dengue control could never be achieved or sustained without community empowerment and ownership.
“However, in reality, the sustainability of community involvement in dengue prevention is very difficult to establish.”

Dr Lokman said Aedes mosquitoes could be predominantly found in urban areas, especially in densely populated places such as the Klang Valley, Petaling, Hulu Langat, Klang, Gombak and Kinta, which have the highest number of hot spots in Malaysia.

Last year, Selangor topped the list with the highest number of dengue cases and fatalities at 63,198 cases and 127 deaths, followed by Johor (15,743 cases) and Perak (9,466 cases).

Dr Lokman said to overcome the dengue menace, the Health Ministry would strengthen dengue prevention and control activities, including improving environmental cleanliness by all agencies and the public, and increasing source reduction activities.

The ministry, he said, would also promote and implement cleanliness campaigns and activities in vacant lands, residential areas, construction sites and other premises with a high Aedes-breeding index.

“We will increase enforcement, especially in construction sites, with other agencies such as the Construction Industry Development Board, Occupational Safety and Health Department and local authorities.”

Dr Lokman noted that it was high time for the authorities to increase punitive measures instead of merely urging people to cooperate in eradicating mosquito-breeding grounds.

“The Destruction of Disease Bearing Insect Act 1975 should be strictly enforced. We will continue to issue compound to households that breed Aedes.

“We will also continue to focus on construction sites and issue stop-work order for two weeks if any premise is found to be a breeding ground and bring them to court for repeated offences, as we have done before. As such, the public will be more cautious and play a more proactive role in dengue prevention activities.”

Dr Lokman noted that everyone was the risk of being infected with dengue virus, especially in the urban area where Aedes-mosquito breeding sites were in abundance as a result of illegal dumping and littering.

All age groups, he said, were at risk of dengue infection, with the most vulnerable group being in the productive age bracket of 15 to 49.

Dr Lokman said 27 per cent of those aged between 20 and 30 were diagnosed with dengue fever.

“This is the active age group with a high mobility. They will be at risk of getting dengue while going to work in the early morning and after office hours in the late evening, which is also the peak biting time of Aedes mosquitoes.

“To prevent mosquito bites, the public is advised to use mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeved shirt and long pants, especially during the peak biting time (5am to 7am and 5pm to 7pm).”

Dengue claims first Johor victim
ZAZALI MUSA The Star 2 Feb 16;

JOHOR BARU: The state claimed its first dengue victim this year – a 42-year-old male from Taman Tebrau Jaya near here.

Johor Health and Environment committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said there were 563 dengue cases in Johor between Jan 17 to 23 – down by 16 cases from the previous week.

However, he said there were 1,655 cases reported in the first three weeks of the year compared to 486 during the corresponding period of 2015.

“Although we only recorded one death in January against two last year, we are not resting on our laurels,” said Ayub.

He said the Johor Baru district recorded the highest number of dengue cases in the state with 77.9% of the 563 cases between Jan 17 and 23, followed by Kulai with 5.2%, Batu Pahat (3.6%), Kluang and Segamat (3.4%) each, Kota Tinggi (2.8%), Pontian (1.8%), Muar (0,9%), Tangkak (0.7%) and Mersing (0.4%).

“Johor Baru people have only themselves to blame for failing to maintain the cleanliness of their surroundings, which has contributed to the rise of dengue cases in the Johor Baru district,” said Ayub.

He said the anti-dengue programmes and the deployment of personnel from the health departments from other districts on a rotation basis did not yield the desired results.

“The only way to prevent dengue from spreading is to practise the highest standards of hygiene, but sadly most urbanites are not doing that,” Ayub said.

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