Sarawak declares red alert over dengue outbreak

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 16 Dec 2009

MIRI: Sarawak's State Ministry of Environment and Public Health has sounded the red alert following an explosion of dengue cases, with about 10 new hospital admissions in Miri City alone every day.

Five people have died throughout the state already, four of them in Miri City and one in Kuching. The number of infected people has reached the 4,000 mark, with 873 patients in Miri City alone.

The ministry and the State Health and Medical Services Department are especially worried because probes carried out into the dengue outbreak have found aedes mosquito larvae that can survive for days and hatch even in a small droplet of water inside the home.

Assistant State Minister for Environment and Public Health Dr Stephen Rundi on Wednesday announced that state authorities have told all hospitals to be at the highest level of alert.

“This is becoming a big problem for the state because the number of people infected has shot up by three times compared with the same period last year.

“We have mobilised all available resources of the health department, the city and district councils, hospital authorities and residential committees to halt the spread.

“We must stop the number of fatalities and bring down the rate of infection. Every day in Miri, eight to 10 new patients are being admitted into the hospital for dengue.

“We are very worried because the wet season is just starting,” he told a press conference here.

On Wednesday, Dr Rundi held a meeting with Miri Mayor Lawrence Lai, State Health and Medical Services Department deputy director Dr Faizul Mansor, Miri Hospital director Dr Uma Devi, local councillors and other agencies to discuss the latest situation on the outbreak.

The latest dengue fatality happened two days ago here in a sprawling squatter colony in Pujut.

Dr Rundi said initial probes carried out by his ministry into the outbreak have uncovered some alarming findings.

Among them:

* AEDES mosquitoes are more difficult to kill compared with before because their larvae have become very hardy and resistent, and can survive for days in very tiny droplet of water and hatch into adult mosquitoes;

* UP-MARKET residential areas have become major breeding grounds because rich folk in Miri do not allow their premises to be “dirtied” by fogging;

* SQUATTER colonies have become even dirtier and are also major breeding grounds for aedes carriers; and

* THE public in general continues to remain indifferent to all efforts to stop the outbreak.

Dr Rundi said the Miri City Council has initiated even more aggressive measures to stop the outbreak and has formed “search and destroy squads” to detect and kill aedes mosquitoes and larvae.

“The city and district councils have been given authorisation to enter every house, including those belonging to the rich and famous, to search for mosquitoes.

“Anyone found with mosquito breeding grounds would be issued a compound of RM500,” he said.

Dr Faizul said previously, it was only the squatter colonies that were breeding grounds for mosquitoes, but now, even the cities’ and towns’ centres and up-market housing estates have become dengue hotspots.

Mayor Lai has ordered intense fogging to be carried out simultaneously throughout Miri City, which has a population of 300,000, to be repeated every three days.

Dr Uma said the Miri Hospital has run out of space for dengue patients due to the surge in new admissions daily, adding that additional wards have to be found soon.

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