Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Malaysia - Dengue Deaths Up in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Deaths from dengue in Malaysia shot up this year, doubling that of 2012, as the tropical country battles with a raging mosquito-borne virus that claims hundreds of lives annually in Southeast Asia.

Four patients — three women and one man — died in the week ending Dec. 21, leaving 88 dead in Malaysia in the first 51 weeks of this year. In 2012, 35 people died in Malaysia of dengue, data from the Ministry of Health show.

Malaysia suffered the worst dengue bout on record in 2010, when 134 people died and 46,171 cases were reported. In 2011, 36 people died in Malaysia, with 19,884 people infected.

As of Dec. 21, dengue cases totaled 41,226 , nearly doubling from 21,444 cases in same period in 2012.

“As long as infection and outbreak of dengue fever continues, the risk of death remains,” said Lokman Hakim, deputy director general at Malaysia’s Ministry of Health.

The virus, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, causes severe fever, headaches, rashes and muscle and joint pain. Severe forms can cause hemorrhagic fever. No vaccine is currently available, and treatment is largely limited to intravenous rehydration.

Selangor state, which borders the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, has been hit the hardest, reporting 24 deaths, the Ministry said. The southern state of Johor that borders Singapore, has recorded 21 fatalities.

Selangor is home to 88 of the 89 dengue “hotspots,” or areas that have witnessed a jump in outbreaks, with Negeri Sembilan accounting for the other.

To try to reduce dengue, Health Ministry officials routinely search thousands of premises around the country to identify potential breeding grounds. People who have pools of stagnant water containing Aedes’s larvae face fines of a minimum of 500 ringgit (US$152). Those who fail to pay could be fined as much as 10,000 ringgit, face up to two years in jail, or both for a first offense. Repeat offenders can be fined five times as much or face five years imprisonment.

“Of late, the searches have become very frequent,” said Shakeel Mustafa, a manager at a restaurant in a suburb bordering Kuala Lumpur. “We ensure that the alley behind our kitchen is cleaned every day.”

The ministry has also urged citizens to drain out stagnant water from around their houses and pressed non-profit organizations to bolster efforts to educate the public about hygiene.

Government health workers frequently conduct checks at construction sites, where tiny puddles serve as breeding grounds for the urban pests, and fumigate schools and other public places.

Abhrajit Gangopadhyay

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