Dengue outbreak imminent

PETALING JAYA: A dengue outbreak of unprecedented scale could occur within the year or next if the public doesn’t do their part in combating its spread, says the Health Ministry.

The ministry’s Disease Control Division deputy director Dr Husnina Ibrahim warned that the recent surge in dengue cases could be the prelude to a potential major outbreak in the near future.

“From January to June 4 this year, we have seen a 158% rise in dengue cases and a distressing 183% increase in the death toll compared with the same period last year.

“This upward trend is expected to continue as Malaysia typically experiences a surge in dengue cases every four to five years.

“An outbreak has been projected to be due around this year or the next, with the estimated number of cases potentially surpassing the historic 2019 outbreak,” Dr Husnina said at the launch of Dengue Prevention Advocacy Malaysia (DPAM) group here yesterday.

Dengue cases saw a massive rise this year with 48,712 cases reported from January to June 3, surpassing the 18,883 cases that were reported within the same period last year.

The period also saw 34 deaths due to dengue fever complications, more than double the 12 dengue-related deaths in 2022, according to Health director-general Datuk Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan on June 12.

Dr Husnina, who represented health deputy director-general (public health) Datuk Dr Norhayati Rusli, said public support and dedication will be key in preventing an outbreak.

“While the government’s efforts like the Wolbachia Mosquito Operation (WMO) have been promising, individuals and communities must also join forces in the fight against dengue.

“Together, we can be the warriors in this battle, by allocating just 10 minutes each week to search and destroy Aedes breeding grounds, disrupting its life cycle and crippling its ability to spread disease,” she said.

She added that dengue cases have reduced by 33% to 100% in 16 out of 19 high-dengue burden localities where the WMO has been implemented since 2019, with the remaining three localities not reporting any increase in dengue cases.

Since July 2019, 28 high-dengue burden localities in Selangor (10), Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya (seven), Penang (four), Kelantan (two), Johor (two), Pahang (two), and Melaka (one) were selected to implement WMO in a staggered manner.

DPAM chairman and public health expert Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail agreed with Dr Husnina, adding that they would help to coordinate public dengue-combating efforts with the ministry’s dengue prevention and control goals.

“Dengue prevention requires a whole-of-society approach, where relevant stakeholders from the government to the private sector and community work together to combat the threat.

“With this goal in mind, DPAM has brought together several professional bodies and societies interested in the prevention, management and control of dengue to work synergistically with the Health Ministry,” he said.

Among the group’s key activities will be to assist the ministry in developing or revising dengue guidelines as well as advocating for adequate financial allocation for dengue-combating activities such as vector control and research.

Being Malaysia’s first independent dengue prevention advocacy group, DPAM, said Dr Zulkifli, will also work closely with regional advocacy group Asian Dengue Voice and Action to foster and strengthen dengue-combating efforts in the region.

DPAM is jointly led and established by the Malaysian Paediatric Association, Malaysian Society of Infection Control and Infectious Disease, Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases and Chemotherapy, and Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association.

The group also consists of members of the Malaysian Society of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine, Malaysian Medical Association, Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health Kuala Lumpur, Rotary International District 3300, as well as several other independent dengue experts.

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