PETALING JAYA: There must now be a shift away from Covid-19 towards tackling dengue across the entire spectrum to ensure the disease is kept under check, say health experts.
Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah said the people have become too complacent over the vector-borne disease and put too much emphasis on Covid-19, causing a loss of focus on dengue.
“Dengue has been a long-standing issue, but now we see neglect across the board due to the pandemic. We have to pay more attention, detect cases quickly, and also try to destroy the breeding of Aedes mosquitoes.
“There have been many (suspected) cases reported by those in primary healthcare and general practitioners.
“We have seen cases of fever, upon which, when we then do blood tests, we see a low blood (red cell) count and positive serology tests,” he told The Star yesterday.
Despite efforts over the years to tackle dengue, the oversight as a result of Covid-19 must be addressed, said Dr Raj Kumar in response to the massive 223% spike in dengue cases in Malaysia this year up to March, compared to the same period last year.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced on Tuesday that the number of dengue-related deaths had increased by more than 300%, from four last year to 17 this year.
Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said that dengue has been endemic in the country for a few years now.
However, every few years, the cycle spikes, causing a huge increase in cases, he said.
“This is due to the widespread natural phenomenon, humans making pools for Aedes breeding, and the lackadaisical attitude of our population towards dengue.
“We need an effective and efficient integrated control of two elements: the environment control to reduce or eliminate breeding places, and secondly, effective case or outbreak tracing and control by the Health Ministry and local authorities,” he said.
Dr Zainal added that more responsibilities could also be given to local authorities and the Environment and Climate Change Ministry in the fight against dengue.
Universiti Malaya expert in epidemiology and public health, Prof Dr Sanjay Rampal said it was important to invest more in detecting and treating cases earlier as well as preventing dengue-related deaths.
“The reactivation of the Cabinet Committee to Combat Dengue is a good step towards an all-of-society approach towards the prevention and control of dengue infections.
“However, I am unsure of the ‘zero dengue target’ as zero deaths from dengue is more likely than zero new cases,” he said.
According to the iDengue site, a total of 27,150 cases of dengue have been recorded in the country from Jan 1 to March 28, with Selangor contributing almost half (13,976).
This is followed by Sabah (2,754), the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur (2,502), Penang (2,226), and Johor (1,822).
At present, there are 2,785 active outbreak localities.