Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Dengue Deaths Rise in Malaysia - Southeast Asia Real Time - WSJ


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Dengue fever has killed 45 people in Malaysia this year – a jump of more than a third from same period last year — as the tropical country struggles to tame a mosquito-borne virus outbreak that has plagued the Southeast Asian region for decades.

Associated Press
A worker in June sprays mosquito repellent at a house in Bangkok. Thailand has seen 119 deaths this year due to dengue, while Malaysia reports 45 deaths from the virus.
The disease has claimed hundreds of lives in the Southeast Asian region this year and is a chronic problem from Africa to Asia to Latin America. More than 2.5 billion people worldwide are at risk of being infected with the virus. According to the World Health Organization, outbreaks have been reported even in the Europe in recent years.
“Deaths due to dengue continue to rise,” Lokman Hakim, deputy director general at Malaysia’s Ministry of Health, said in a statement.
Malaysia had recorded 21,453 dengue cases for the year through Sept. 21,  a 34.5% increase from 15,950 cases recorded in the same period a year earlier. On a weekly basis, 103 new dengue cases were reported. Meanwhile, the 45 deaths compare with last year’s 27 in the comparable time period.
Selangor state, which borders the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, has been hit the hardest, with 10,051 cases reported this year, leading to 12 deaths.
The virus, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, causes severe fever, headaches, rashes and muscle and joint pain. Severe forms can cause hemorrhagic fever. Still, there is no vaccine available. Treatment is limited to intravenous rehydration. Blood platelets are destroyed, leading to blood or plasma leakage. A patient can slip into “dengue shock,” with dangerously low blood pressure.
“The situation is quite alarming,” said Sivakumar Krishnan, spokesman of the federal Health Ministry.
The government has identified 19 hotspots, 18 of which are in Selangor, where pools of stagnant water serve as prime breeding sites for the Aedes mosquitoes. According to government data, Aedes’s breeding rose 28.6% in Selangor and 38.2% in the northern state of Perak, home to a sole hotspot.
To check the mosquito population, the Health Ministry is urging the public to find and destroy breeding grounds of these urban pests in and around their houses. Authorities have checked 17,000 premises this month and slapped penalties totaling 54,000 Malaysian ringgit ($16,539) on those whose premises had stale water pools containing Aedes’s larve. Those who fail to pay could be fined as much as 10,000 ringgit, or face up to two years in jail, or both for first offense. Repeat offenders risk being fined five times as much, or five years imprisonment, or both.
Moreover, government health workers are routinely conducting checks at construction sites and fumigating schools and other public places.
The disease is also troubling neighbor Singapore, a city-state that is well known for its clean roads and modern sanitation.
According data from the World Health Organization, Singapore reported  15,774 cases as of Sept. 27, compared with 3,109 in the same period last year.
Data from other countries in the region are mixed.
The Philippines reported a 4.6% annual decline in reported dengue cases as of Sept. 14 this year, at 124,290 from 130,241 last year.
However, according to government data in Thailand, dengue cases nearly tripled to 127,791 this year as of Sept. 24, from 45,224 in same period last year. The disease has claimed 119 lives this year, compared to 44 in all of 2012.
In Laos, 40,307 cases had been reported as of Sept. 6, compared to 4,594 in the comparable period last year, data from the World Health Organization show.
– Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol in Bangkok, Cris Larano in Manila and Jason Ng in  Kuala Lumpur contributed to this article.

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