Health authorities should explain why they have dragged their feet and have not launched a nation-wide alert on the virulent dengue outbreak when in the first 10 months, 2002 is already the third worst year in the number of dengue deaths and may end up with even higher fatalities than the worst dengue years of 1997 and 1998
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Monday): Deputy Health Minister, Datuk Sulaiman Mohamad said that the Health Ministry would declare a nation-wide alert if the number of dengue cases continue to rise in the country. (Nanyang Siang Pau)
Sulaiman’s indifference to the rampage and the deaths caused by the current dengue outbreak is most irresponsible and appalling. The health authorities should explain why they have dragged their feet and have not yet launched a nation-wide alert on the virulent dengue outbreak when the first 10 months of this year is already the third worst year in the number of dengue deaths and by the end of December, 2002 may tote up even higher fatalities than the worst dengue years of 1997 and 1998.
Yesterday’s Nanyang Siang Pau front-page headline report gave the somber news that in the first ten months of the year, the dengue outbreak has claimed the lives of 40 people, including 12 in Selangor, 13 in Johore, 10 in Perak and three in Negri Sembilan.
According to data from the World Health Organisation, which are available on the Internet, the figures for “Dengue fever/dengue haemorrhagic fever cases and deaths” for Malaysia from 1991 to 2000 are as follows:
This means that the dengue outbreak in the first 10 months of this year is already the third worst in the nation’s history after 1997 and 1998, which claimed 50 and 58 lives respectively, and there is a likelihood that the final death toll from the dengue outbreak could exceed the figures of both these years by the end of 2002.
How many more people must die from the dengue outbreak before the Health Ministry is prepared to decare a nation-wide alert?
Health authorities, including the Deputy Health Minister, should stop watching the chart in their offices on the incidence of dengue cases and fatalities before deciding on whether to declare a nation-wide alert and get off their backsides to launch an immediate high-impact media campaign to create instant nation-wide alert and awareness of the virulent dengue outbreak to stop the loss of any more loss of human lives, especially children who have suffered the most fatalities as compared to previous years.
The medical authorities should stop trifling with human lives and must adopt the attitude that another death from the dengue outbreak is completely unacceptable and one too many.
The government should ensure full public awareness of the dengue outbreak, that fogging is not an adequate response and instill the urgency for a two-point anti-dengue strategy: :
In the middle of September this year, New Straits Times reported the “alarming surge” in dengue fever figures, with a total of 17,341 cases and 34 deaths reported from January to the end of August, with Selangor topping the list of number of cases at 5,000 followed by Kuala Lumpur with 4,094, with northern Perak, north-eastern Kelantan and southern Johore classified as high-risk.
There has been an alarming increase in the number of dengue cases and fatalities after August. From various scattered media reports, there was a 70% increase in Selangor in the number of dengue cases in the three months from August to October, 2002, which nation-wide, would make this year an even worse year for dengue outbreak than 1998, both in the number of cases as well as deaths – 27,379 cases and 58 deaths in 1998.
What is most worrying are reports from paediatricians that the fatalities of children in the current outbreak are higher than previous years.
A matter of immediate urgency is that the health authorities should fully release all the data on the number of dengue cases and deaths, state-by-state and month-by-month, so that the people are fully aware and alert about the deadly dengue outbreak.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman