EXPERTS have raised the alarm that a dengue fever epidemic is set to hit Malaysia starting this year — with cases expected to peak in 2024 and 2025 — and are urging authorities to strengthen interventions and the public to take preventative steps.

The Health Ministry reported that dengue fever cases up to epidemiological week 51 (up to Dec 24) were three times higher than figures seen during the same period in 2021.

Up to Dec 24, Malaysia recorded a cumulative 64,078 dengue cases compared with 25,794 for the same period in 2021 — an increase of 148.4 per cent — while 50 deaths were caused by dengue complications compared with 19 during the same period in 2021.

This uptrend, however, came as no shock to experts, who described the phenomenon as a “cyclical transmission of dengue fever” that surges every three to five years.

The recent increase in dengue cases is expected, said public health expert and epidemiologist Professor Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman.

“Based on observations over the past three decades (in Malaysia), severe dengue outbreaks occur every four to five years.

“Last year was the beginning of the next major outbreak, which I predict will peak between this year and 2025.”

Dr Lokman is the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research and director of International Medical University’s Institute for Research, Development and Innovation. He also served as director of the Infectious Disease Research Centre under the Institute for Medical Research.

Dengue was first documented in Malaysia in 1902 and became a public health risk in the 1970s.

Its first major outbreak occurred in 1973 (969 cases and 54 deaths).

Other major outbreaks were reported in 1998 (27,381 cases and 82 deaths), 2008 (49,335 cases and 112 deaths), 2015 (120,836 cases and 336 deaths) and 2019 (130,101 cases and 182 deaths).

Most dengue victims in Malaysia are between the ages of 15 and 49, and 80 per cent live in urban areas.

Epidemiologist and health informatician Professor Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud of Universiti Malaya agreed, adding that the surge in cases was “hardly surprising” as dengue numbers normally went through an uptrend followed by a downtrend which is repeated over time.

He said this was due to the prevalent dengue virus serotype.

Dengue is caused by a virus of the Flaviviridae family.

There are four distinct, but closely related, serotypes of the virus that cause dengue (DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4), all of which can be found in Malaysia.

Infection with one DENV serotype provides immunity to that serotype for life, but not to other serotypes.

Thus, a person can be infected four times, once with each serotype. Later exposure to the remaining serotypes is associated with an increased risk of severe disease.

“Cases will decrease as immunity builds up to one serotype.

“However, this downtrend is not permanent, and an uptrend is likely with a new serotype,” Dr Awang Bulgiba said.

Over the past five decades, dengue cases have increased by 30-fold globally, with half of
the world’s population now at risk.

According to the World Health Organisation, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics before 1970.

The disease is currently endemic in 129 countries, with 70 per cent of cases in Asia.

About 390 million people are infected each year, with 96 million cases showing clinical symptoms.

A 2019 study published in Nature Microbiology predicted that the geographical range of dengue will expand to put more than six billion people — or 60 per cent of the world’s population — at risk of infection by 2080.

Climate change, population growth, unplanned or rapid urbanisation, ecological disruption, inadequate sanitisation and increasing international trade and travel have been cited as contributory factors to the increase in dengue cases.

Source : NST

Malaysia dengue cases up more than 200% in 2023

The Malaysia Ministry of Health reports 19,450 cumulative dengue fever cases through the first two months of 2023, an increase of some 212 percent compared to the same period in 2022 (6,229).

In 2023 to date, 15 dengue-related fatalities have been reported in Malaysia, compared to two deaths same period last year.

Dengue is a disease caused by a virus spread through mosquito bites. The disease can take up to 2 weeks to develop with illness generally lasting less than a week.

Health effects from dengue include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, muscle and joint pain, and minor bleeding.

Dengue can become severe within a few hours. Severe dengue is a medical emergency, usually requiring hospitalization.

In severe cases, health effects can include hemorrhage (uncontrolled bleeding), shock (seriously low blood pressure), organ failure, and death.

Source : Out Break News Today

Concern over substantial increase of dengue cases in Johor

The State health and Unity Committee has call for urgent action to prevent the spread of dengue cases in the state, which has recorded a substantial increase over the past few years.

Its chairman Ling Tian Soon said there were 2,073 cumulative cases up to the 14th epidemiological week this year, compared to 295 in the same period last year.

This was an increase of 496 per cent compared to the same period in 2022, which recorded 34 dengue cases.

Of the total number of reported cases, 721 cases (34.8 per cent) were epidemic locality cases while 1,352 cases (65.2 per cent) were non-epidemic locality cases.

There were 166 cases of dengue fever reported, an increase of 11.4 per cent compared to the previous week with 149 cases.

Ling said Johor Baru district had the highest number with 112 cases, which was 67.5 per cent of the total cases reported in the state, followed by 21 cases in Kulai, Kota Tinggi 11, five cases respectively in Batu Pahat and Kluang, four in Segamat, Muar (three), two cases respectively in Mersing and Pontian and one case in Tangkak.

All districts reported an increase in cases in the 14th epidemiological week compared to the 13th epidemiological week, except for Pontian and Batu Pahat.

Although there were no fatalities reported state-wide in the 14th epidemiological week, there were two deaths cumulatively thus far, recording an increase of 200 per cent against the same period last year.

He said the increase in dengue cases in Johor was a cause for concern, and urged all parties to take steps to control the spread of the disease.

“While relevant authorised agencies have been conducting regular fogging operations to kill mosquitoes and their larvae, I hope members of the public will take steps to prevent dengue too.

“One of the most effective ways to eliminate mosquito breeding sites around their homes is to ensure there is no stagnant water around the house. This can be done by regularly checking and emptying any containers that may collect water, such as flower pots, buckets, and old tires,” he said.

Source : NST

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