THE global incidence of dengue has risen dramatically, with about half of the world’s population at risk now. Although an estimated 100 to 400 million infections occur annually, over 80% are generally mild and asymptomatic.
Dengue causes a wide spectrum of diseases, ranging from subclinical disease (people may not even know they are infected) to severe flu-like symptoms.
There are four distinct but closely-related serotypes of the virus (of the Flaviviridae family) that causes dengue: DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4.
Apart from dengue, we also have other vector-borne diseases such as malaria, Zika and chikungunya.
Dengue prevention and control depends on effective vector control measures. Today, severe dengue affects most Asian countries and has become a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children and adults.
In Malaysia, dengue is an ongoing epidemic detected throughout the year. Sadly, it is often misdiagnosed and we only hear about it when there is a sudden rise in dengue cases in a certain location.
Usually, public announcements and dengue control measures are done only if someone gets infected or dies in a particular area.
The Health Ministry has drawn up the 4S programme to control dengue infections among the population. The 4S stands for “Search and Destroy” mosquito breeding places, “Secure Self Protection” from mosquito bites, “Seek Early Consultation” when signs and symptoms of dengue occur, and “Support Fogging/spraying” only in hotspot areas where increase in cases is registered for two consecutive weeks to prevent an impending outbreak.
Unfortunately, I don’t see anyone paying much attention to or abiding by this strategy. Furthermore, I am concerned over why fogging cannot be done periodically. Just like the vaccination programme was effective in controlling the spread of Covid-19, so can periodic fogging in the case of dengue.
The Health Department’s vector control unit can draw up a schedule for periodic fogging covering all areas with or without detected cases. I strongly feel vector-borne diseases can be minimised, if not eradicated, when effective measures are taken systematically.
DR VICTOR DAVID
Faculty of Medicine
AIMST University, Kedah