Monday, December 16, 2013

More Die from Dengue in Malaysia As Cases Spike

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—At least five people have died from dengue fever this month in Malaysia, where authorities are struggling to contain an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus that claims hundreds of lives annually in Southeast Asia.

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
A municipal council worker dispensing insecticide using a fogging machine among residential houses in Gombak, on the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 5.
The total number of dengue deaths for the year now stands at 79, more than double the 34 deaths recorded in 2012.  Cases of the virus have also spiked, with 37,698 dengue cases reported as of Dec. 7, an 85% increase from the 20,387 cases reported in the same period a year earlier, according to data from Malaysia’s Health Ministry.
Selangor state, which borders the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, has been hit the hardest, with 20,209 cases reported and 19 deaths, the Ministry said. The southern state of Johor, just across the Johor strait from Singapore, has recorded 4,421 cases.
Four of those who died recently were college students, Lokman Hakim, deputy director general at Malaysia’s Ministry of Health, said in a statement.
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. No vaccine is currently available, and treatment is limited to intravenous rehydration.
In Selangor, the government has identified 69 hotspots where pools of stagnant water serve as breeding sites for the Aedes mosquitoes.
To keep the mosquito population in check, Malaysia’s Health Ministry is searching thousands of premises around the country to identify potential breeding grounds and is urging the public to drain stagnant water from around their houses. It has also pressed non-profit organizations to boost efforts to educate the public about keeping their premises clean and mosquito free.
On November 12 the authorities searched 14,092 premises, identified 111 areas as breeding grounds and fined residents whose premises had stale pools containing Aedes’s larve with penalties totaling 55,500 Malaysian ringgit ($17,156).
According to law, people found to have breeding grounds on their property can be fined a minimum of 500 ringgit. Those who fail to pay could be fined as much as 10,000 ringgit, face up to two years in jail, or both for a first offense.  Repeat offenders can be fined five times as much or face five years imprisonment.
Government health workers routinely conduct checks at construction sites, where tiny pools of water often gather, and are fumigating schools and other public places. Mr. Lokman also urged citizens of states that recently experienced seasonal flooding to swiftly drain stagnant water that could host Aedes mosquitoes.
Neighboring Singapore has also been struggling to contain a dengue outbreak, with seven deaths and 21,324 cases of the virus reported as of Dec. 13, according data from Singapore’s National Environment Agency.

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