Chua Jui Meng should issue a nation-wide alert of the present virulent dengue outbreak and take the people into confidence by releasing the figures of number of cases and fatalities this year
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): Yesterday, the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng made quite a meaningless statement in Johore about the rise in the number of cases of dengue fever which seems to focus more on the transfer of the responsibility of organizing prevention campaigns, fogging and door-to-door checks from the Health Ministry to the Housing and Local Government Ministry than about the current serious virulent dengue outbreak.
Although Chua said dengue fever is on the rise, he immediately qualified it by saying that it is under control, failing to release any figures.
He said there was a noticeable increase in the number of dengue cases reported last year compared with 1999 and 2000, and that the number continued its upward trend this year.
But such a statement is both meaningless and irresponsible without facts and figures of the number of cases and deaths this year alone.
Chua said that the Cabinet was recently notified about the dengue outbreak, which can only be a measure of its severity. Under the circumstances, Chua is being doubly irresponsible and negligent as Health Minister in not giving the necessary facts and figures about the number of dengue cases and fatalities this year, especially as childhood fatality from dengue attack is much higher this year as compared to previous years.
I have received alarming reports from medical doctors about the current virulent dengue outbreak involving a new virus, Dengue 3, which is more serious than others and have already claimed many lives, mostly children.
Dengue cases reached a peak in 1998 with a total of 27,379 cases and 58 deaths, and the statistics from 1995 to 2000 are as follows:
The current virulent dengue outbreak has threatened to reach the epidemic proportion of 1998, with a total of 17,341 cases and 34 deaths reported from January to the end of August, which is a sharp increase from the comparative period last year.
There have been reports of sharp increases in the past few months both in the cases of dengue fever and fatalities, and there is cause to worry whether the worst record of fatalities of 58 deaths in 1998 would be exceeded.
Paediatricians in the worst affected states, namely Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Perak, Penang, Kedah and Terengganu are most worried at the incidence of deaths of children from the virulent strain of dengue which are higher than previous years.
Chua should issue a nation-wide alert so that there is full public awareness about the virulent dengue outbreak, releasing figures of the number of cases and fatalities on a state-by-state breakdown, so that immediate medical help is sought in cases of fever (with or without rash), which could mean life and death for children.
There should also be awareness that in the current dengue outbreak, the public cannot just depend on mosquitoes fogging as the aedes larvae are not dealt with – and the the public must deal with their house and neighbourhood environment (particularly construction sites) to improve surveillance on Aedes breeding in clear water.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman