IPOH: Malaysians have been told to brace for a possible spike in the number of dengue cases around July and August.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said this was based on the predictive models the ministry has when the virus that causes the infection evolves from one serotype to another due to weather changes.
“We have been seeing a shift between the four serotypes of the virus since last year-end, from DEN-2 to DEN-1.
“Most people in Malaysia have never been exposed to the DEN-1 serotype before, which means previous dengue patients remain vulnerable just as those who have not suffered from dengue fever,” Dr Subramaniam told a press conference here yesterday.
Dr Subramaniam explained that dengue fever is caused by four serotypes, and a person could suffer from the infection four times in a lifespan due to this.
“When you are infected by one serotype, it doesn’t mean that you are protected against the other three.
“Since DEN-2 was the prevalent serotype last year, many Malaysians infected would be immune to that particular serotype now, but they aren’t immune to DEN-1.
“It is for that reason that we predict a spike in dengue cases later this year,” he said.
To eradicate breeding sites effectively, Dr Subramaniam said all health authorities had been asked to push local authorities to take the necessary steps to do so.
“Vacant lots remain a high potential breeding site for mosquitoes, so we are telling local authorities to clean them all up.
“Developers and contractors have also been asked to make sure that their construction sites are clean,” he said.
Dr Subramaniam called on individuals and families to also take precautionary steps, as most breeding sites are found indoors.
He was speaking in response to concerns which arose from a spike in dengue cases in Perak this year, with 673 cases recorded in the first 35 days of the year with three deaths.
It was an increase of 6.3% over the same period last year, which recorded no deaths.
Asked whether the Health Ministry would consider releasing mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia micro-organism in Perak as a step to reduce dengue cases in the state, Dr Subramaniam said this was not part of the plans yet.
“We (the Health Ministry) are doing this on a trial basis first, and we should be releasing the Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes in two areas in Selangor in March.
“We will follow up on the results before deciding on whether to release more of such mosquitoes in other states,” said Dr Subramaniam, adding it the move would definitely be continued if capable of controlling dengue.