Health Ministry has finally conceded after some 80 deaths that the
country is facing worst dengue epidemic with 32,289 dengue cases last year
as compared to 27,379 in 1998, the previous worst year on record
by Lim Kit Siang
The Health Ministry has finally conceded after some 80 deaths that the
country is facing the worst dengue epidemic when it admitted that there were
32,289 dengue cases as of 28th December last year (Sin Chew Daily) - in
stark contrast to the last official statement by the Ministry of Health on
the deadly dengue outbreak made by its parliamentary secretary, S.
Sothinathan to AFP on 1st January 2003 that there were only 10,753 confirmed
cases nationwide last year.
I find it unbelievable, however, that the Health Ministry is still
maintaining the death toll of 57 as at 28th December last year. I said
yesterday that there were at least 74 dengue deaths last year culled from
the statements of various state government officials and mass media reports.
In fact, I believe that the total number of dengue deaths countrywide last
year could be as high as 80 or over, without including the five dengue
deaths in the first two weeks of this year for three states, namely Ipoh
(3), Pahang (1) and Kelantan (1).
The death toll of 57 countrywide are far short of the total death tally
which have been given by the various state government health officials or
state exco members responsible for health, and cast a most adverse
reflection on the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, that at this late
hour he is still trying to hide the facts about the deadly dengue epidemic
from the people of Malaysia when one precious life after another is being
It is tragic that in the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history, the
fight against the deadly virus infection had been hampered by the
information and media blackout. - and before one could effectively fight the
dengue epidemic, one had to fight the information and media blackout.
I do not see, for instance, why the 11 dengue deaths in the first six months
of last year should balloon into some 80 dengue deaths last year and at
least five this year if the World Health Organisation warning in July of a
possible dengue pandemic had been given full heed and there had been a
high-impact IEC or information, education and communication (including
media) campaign, making full use of radio, television and the newspapers, to
create nation-wide alert and awareness of the epidemic among medical
practitioners and the general public.
2002 is not only a "black year" for public health in Malaysia, but also for
the mass media in failing in play its role to check the dengue epidemic to
save lives as there must be over 60 dengue deaths last year which were
avoidable and could have been prevented if there had been a full nation-wide
When a full assessment is made about the role of the mass media in Malaysia,
its failure to save scores of lives in the worst dengue epidemic in the
nation's history in 2002 would make sad reading.
The latest reports on the dengue situation should be a warning to all that
the dengue epidemic is still at its worst. New Straits Times yesterday
reported that there had been more dengue cases in Kota Bharu than
previously, with about 250 cases reported in the Kota Bharu district so far
this year and the figure is increasing daily.
The single biggest responsibility of Chua Jui Meng, after allowing the
dengue epidemic to get out of hand from 11 dengue deaths in the first six
months of last year to some 80 deaths at the end of the year and at least
another five deaths this year, is to bring the epidemic under control
without any more deaths.
He should forget about the MCA Team A and Team B power struggle or other
inter-Ministerial contest and just focus on creating the belated nation-wide
alert about the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history, starting by
releasing real-time information and indicators about the dengue outbreak,
such as weekly or even daily incidence data, case-fatality rates (CFR) for
dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), frequency and distribution of dengue and DHF
cases by age, gender, ethnicity and location; number of deaths - on a
state-by-state and week-by-week basis.
For this reason, Chua should seek leave from the Cabinet on Wednesday to
attend the all-party/professional groups/civic organizations/NGOs/mass media
roundtable conference on the dengue epidemic which the DAP has convened at
the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, 22nd January
2003 at 11 a.m. A special invitation to the Minister to attend the
round-table conferernce will be sent tomorrow.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National