Chua Jui Meng given 48 hours to make public
the full data of the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history, with
state and weekly breakdown of dengue cases and fatalities for last year and
this year or DAP will launch a nation-wide campaign to demand his
resignation as first important step to create nation-wide awareness of the
worst dengue epidemic and to save lives by stopping avoidable dengue deaths
by Lim Kit Siang
On Tuesday, I sent an email invitation to the Minister for Health, Datuk
Chua Jui Meng, to seek leave of absence from the Cabinet to attend the DAP
roundtable conference on the dengue epidemic at the Selangor Chinese
Assembly Hall, Kuala Lumpur yesterday morning, as his single biggest
responsibility now is to bring the dengue epidemic under control without any
more unnecessary and avoidable deaths.
Chua had not only failed to attend the roundtable conference on the dengue
epidemic yesterday, there was no response from him - as if the worst dengue
epidemic in the nation's history which could have killed as many as 80
people last year and at least six this year is no concern of his.
What is worse, there is no indication that Chua had brought to the Cabinet
yesterday the gravity of the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history
and to seek Cabinet approval for the declaration of a dengue epidemic and
nation-wide dengue alert with 32,289 dengue cases reported by the Health
Ministry as at 28th December last year (exceeding the 27,379 dengue cases in
the 1998 epidemic, the previous worst dengue year) and the establishment of
a high-powered Cabinet Committee under the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to co-ordinate the various Ministries and to spearhead
a concerted war against dengue and the aedes mosquitoes.
Last July, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a warning to the
region of a possible dengue pandemic on the scale of the worst recorded
dengue year of 1998 and urged governments to take effective action against
the mosquitoes which spread the infection.
The WHO disease control specialist Dr. Mike Nathan had then warned: "This
year is looking a bit like 1998 when we had a pandemic. It's a very worrying
picture". Nathan lamented: "Countries declare a state of emergency when the
disease is upon them, but that's really too late. In most affected
countries, lots of money gets thrown at an epidemic, but not in the
Malaysia is proving to be
embarrassingly and tragically unique - where neither efforts nor "lots of
money" are "thrown" whether in the intervening period or the six-month long
epidemic so far, resulting in the most number of dengue cases and deaths in
the nation's history!
1998 was also the worst recorded year for dengue for Singapore, when it
recorded 5,258 dengue cases and one dengue death (as compared to 27,379
dengue cases and 58 deaths in Malaysia for the same year).
Singapore was also included in the WHO warning last July of a possible
dengue pandemic in the region, and there was a marked rise in the incidence
of dengue cases in August and September in the island republic.
However, in less than five months by the end of November last year, the
Singapore government announced that it had "successfully curbed" the dengue
menace in Singapore and the dengue situation was returning to normal
"despite the active transmission of dengue in the region".
Singapore last year reported 3,937 dengue cases and eight DHF cases, much
lower than the 5,258 dengue cases in 1998.
In Malaysia, however, the number of dengue cases last year had shot up to
32,289 cases as of December 28 last year exceeding 1998's total of 27,379
cases (Health Ministry figures in Sin Chew) and 57 deaths (although I
estimate that there could be as many as over 80 dengue deaths last year and
at least six deaths in the first two weeks of this year).
Why could Singapore heed the WHO warning last July of a possible dengue
pandemic to bring the deadly disease under control and save lives but not
Malaysia where it has ballooned into the worst dengue epidemic in the
Why is it that Singapore Boleh but Malaysia Tak Boleh?
DAP is giving Chua Jui Meng 48 hours to make public the full data of the
worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history, with state and weekly
breakdown of dengue cases and fatalities for last year and this year or DAP
will a launch nation-wide campaign to demand his resignation as the first
important step to create nation-wide awareness of the worst dengue epidemic
to befall the nation and to save lives by stopping avoidable dengue deaths.
Chua should henceforth release real-time information and indicators about
the dengue outbreak in Malaysia, 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; distribution of circulating dengue virus serotypes, etc.
Singapore releases a weekly bulletin not only of dengue cases but of all
infectious diseases in the republic, which are easily accessible to the
public on the Internet. Why is this not done in Malaysia?
The Health Ministry had been most negligent in defeating the very purpose of
making the dengue disease in Malaysia notifiable since 1973, so that there
could be effective disease surveillance to ensure a timely and high-impact
public health IEC or information, education and communication (including
media) campaign to check the spread of the deadly communicable disease with
the full support of the public.
When a disease is made "notifiable" under the law, every case has to be
reported to the relevant health authorities by all hospitals, physicians,
laboratories, and other persons knowing of or suspecting a case - which
means that the government has the latest and most timely update of the total
number of dengue cases and deaths in each state.
Such information should be made immediately available to the public in a
timely manner, as is the practice in all other developed countries like
Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.
This is particularly important in a dengue epidemic as there is no drug or
vaccine against DHF and the most effective way to control and prevent
outbreaks of dengue fever is to lower the population of the Aedes mosquito.
In Malaysia, however, these information about "notifiable diseases" like the
virulent dengue epidemic concerning number of dengue cases and fatalities,
and their incidence according to age, gender, locality and ethnicity are all
closely-guarded secrets under the Official Secrets Act as if their
disclosures are even more dangerous than terrorist attacks and could
threaten the security and survival of Malaysia!
There is a total perversion of IT and the information revolution in Malaysia
as Malaysians can get no information about the current dengue epidemic or
help as to how to prevent DHF from the various Ministry of Health or State
Health Department websites.
In fact, the Health Ministry website (www.moh.gov.my) appears to have been
taken down and is no more accessible, after I had condemned it as a classic
example of a government "cobwebsite" - an elaborate, expensive but useless
government website which conceals rather than reveals information about
public health and therefore a sheer waste of public funds totally irrelevant
to the people's needs.
Singapore government websites in contrast have information aplenty as to how
to prevent DHF, and it would benefit Malaysians to visit them on pointers as
to how to prevent DHF in the absence of information of the Malaysian Health
Ministry websites - which is a disgrace for the Malaysian government.
If the DAP is forced to launch a nation-wide campaign to demand the
resignation of Chua Jui Meng as Health Minister as the first important step
to create belated nation-wide awareness of the worst dengue epidemic to
befall the nation and to save lives by stopping avoidable dengue deaths, we
will start from Kampung Sungai Kerayong, Taman Maluri, Cheras where there
had been three dengue deaths in the 17 days between December 25 to January
Together with DAP Federal Territory MPs, I had visited Kampung Sungai
Kerayong twice in the past few days, the second time two days ago, when we
were able to confirm that the third dengue death was Wong Pui San, 13, of
No. 12, Kampung Sungai Kerayong.
A Form II student with Bukit Nanas Convent, Wong died of dengue at the Tung
Shin private hospital on January 11, 2003. It is a sad tale of a bright and
promising girl from a poor family, who scored 5As in the UPSR, whose life
was wiped out in the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history but whose
death was completely unnecessary as it was avoidable!.
Wong was supposed to enter into Form II (Class 2K) of Bukit Nenas Convent
but she never made it to school in the new year, as a day before the school
re-opening, she was struck down with dengue fever on January 5. Wong's
father, Wong Swee Weng is a retired hawker who has become so depressed by
his youngest daughter's unnecessary and avoidable death that she and his
wife have left Kampung Sungai Kerayong.
The small Kampung Sungai Kerayong with some 50 houses has three dengue
deaths and some 20 dengue cases, some very critical ones. On Sunday, I met
Mohd Wazir Ariffin, 43, attendant at University of Malaya Medical Centre
whose two daughters Siti Zalikha Mohd. Wazir, 11, and Siti Zaharah, 13, died
of dengue within two days of each other on Christmas Day on Dec. 25 and 27
It is not only the bereaved Wazir and Wong families, but also the people of
Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia, who are entitled to ask: Who were the real
killers of the two Malay and one Chinese girls in Kampung Sungai Kerayong
who died of dengue within 17 days from December 25 last year to January 11 -
aedes mosquitoes or ministerial negligence and irresponsibility in failing
to bring the worst dengue epidemic in the country under control like
Singapore after more than six months despite the WHO warning last July?
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National