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Malaysia facing dengue endemic with over 48,000 cases

Malaysia is facing a dengue endemic with more than 48,000 people falling victim to the mosquito-borne disease this year alone.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is facing a dengue endemic with more than 48,000 people falling victim to the mosquito-borne disease this year alone.

With at least 92 deaths so far, the government has now set up a national task force to tackle the problem before it spreads even further throughout the country.

Mr Tan Chee Hong and his family were looking forward to their annual Lunar New Year celebrations in January. But one by one, they fell ill with dengue fever.

Mr Tan said: "It was very depressing. You do not even want to call friends or relatives because you don't want anybody to see you in the hospital during times like that, especially during Chinese New Year."

He and his family are just four of the more than 48,000 Malaysians who have fallen victim to dengue since January -- an almost 250 per cent increase in cases compared to the same period last year.

Experts speculate that prolonged hot and dry spells may have contributed to a growth in the population of the Aedes mosquito, which carries the virus.

Veeramohan Supramaniam, from the Malaysian Association of Environmental Health, said: "Conditions of warm weather actually increase the hatching of the eggs."

The government has set up a special task force to combat the tropical disease and clear up dengue hotspots within two months.

With more than 2,000 new cases reported weekly, the Health Ministry is hoping at the very least to prevent new cases from emerging.

But some don't quite agree with one of the proposed methods of handling the crisis -- intensified fogging.

Veeramohan Supramaniam said: "The best way is to make sure the biodiversity in the urban area is re-established. If you overkill by fogging, you kill all the ants, you kill all the crawling insects that look for eggs.

“Instead, you should be going to the outdoors, getting the local authorities to identify abandoned plots of land.”

Dengue cases are increasing in cities, and now local health authorities fear that dengue will spread even further across the country, as Malaysian Muslims travel back to their hometowns for the end of Ramadan.

But according to experts, Aedes mosquitios are not quite hitching a ride with passengers. Some say the virus can only spread through travel if an infected person goes to a mosquito-prone area.

Whatever is causing the spread of the virus, Mr Tan said there is an urgent need to put an end to the disease that has already killed 92 people.

Mr Tan said: "The fever is so bad, and you feel like vomiting, that means you cannot even drink water, you get dehydrated, you are just lying down there, and you’re also worried about internal bleeding. So, in fact, it was hell.

“It is not something new, dengue. Dengue is something that always happens during the hot and dry season in Malaysia. Under this kind of situation, I just think, I would say somebody is not doing their work."

He is now hopeful that if everyone plays their part, his next Chinese New Year will be dengue-free. 

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