Malaysia: Dengue Outbreak Leaves Dozens Dead

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Health and living standards have been rapidly improving across Asia, however, many tropics countries in the region are still facing an uphill battle with dengue and other serious diseases. Malaysia in particular has seen a steep rise in Dengue cases this year, with reported cases nearly doubling over last year.

Dengue Fever is a virus spread by several species of mosquito, all falling within the Aedes genus. There are five principle strains of virus, and once a person has become infected with dengue, they become immune to that particular strand, but not other strains. While the mortality rate is low, the high rate of infection means that some people will ultimately die. For those that live, the disease is known for causing a high degree of suffering. Besides a high fever, those infected suffer from skin rashes, joint and muscle pain, and severe headaches.

Dengue fever is a serious and hard to control disease. So far, nearly 38,000 cases of Dengue fever have been reported in Malaysia this year, up from nearly 21,000 cases during the same period last year. With the number of reported cases having nearly doubled, it should come as no surprise that the death toll rose from 34 to 79 people.

Governments Unable to Stop the Disease from Spreading

Perhaps most worrisome for authorities in Malaysia, the steep rise in cases is not occurring in backwater states, but instead Selangor, the most populated and developed state in the country. Further, several of the deaths have occurred among college students, who are generally young and healthy.

While it might be tempting to “brush” Dengue Fever off as a developing world country, even Singapore, which is one of the world’s most highly developed countries, has been having trouble keeping the disease in check. Despite one of the world’s best public health systems, Singapore has recorded over 21,000 cases so far this year. As in Malaysia

The governments of both Malaysia and Singapore have ramped up their efforts to combat the disease. With no available vaccine, control programs rely on destroying mosquito and their breading grounds. The Malaysia government has launched a series of searches find and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.

Door-to-Door Inspections Being Launched in Malaysia

So far, nearly 15,000 premises have been searched, and those citizens or organizations that are found to have large pools of stagnant water on their property risk being fined at least RM500 (USD 150). 111 potential breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes have been found, with 69 such hotspots having been found in Selangor alone.

Local non-profit agencies are also ramping up their efforts to educate people on how to prevent the disease and the need to drain or treat stagnant water. Unless people take responsibility for their own property, it may prove impossible to bring the disease under control. Until a vaccine can be invented, education and the eradication of stagnant pools of water, along with other mosquito control operations, offer the best chance to combat the disease.

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