- POSTED: 18 Feb 2014 22:26
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More than 12,000 people in Malaysia have been infected with dengue fever so far this year, representing a four-fold increase compared to the same period last year.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is waging an all-out war against an ongoing dengue outbreak that has claimed 25 lives this year.
This is the deadliest outbreak of dengue fever in Malaysia since the 2010.
More than 12,000 people have been infected so far this year, representing a four-fold increase compared to the same period last year.
The worst may not be over. The country's health minister warns that it may take at least four weeks before the situation stabilises.
Also known as break bone fever because of severe muscle and joint pain that comes with it, dengue fever is a flu-like illness, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
Despite fumigation by local councils - including the use of the biological agent called BTI for the first time - to curb the spread, the death toll continues to rise and government hospitals are inundated by dengue patients.
Malaysian Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam said: "The situation is quite worrying and critical because every week we are having approximately 2,000 cases being reported.
"We have analysed all these steps which we are taking and to see their efficacy. So today, I've instructed all these seriously affected districts to have dual fogging continuously for four weeks at a stretch. We want to bring down the density of mosquitoes and larvae sites."
While appealing for calm, the health minister confirmed that a vaccine against dengue may be imminent.
Dr Subramaniam said the vaccine is currently in the final phase of clinical trials in several countries including Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur may receive it before anywhere else.
"Studies showing that they are quite useful (for strains) 1, 3 and 4. (They are) very effective. For (strain) 2, (it is) not so effective, but once this multi-centre trial is completed within the next two years or so, then we'll be in a position to see whether we can make it marketable and available for use on a vaccination, as a control mechanism."
Just as the vaccine is being tested on all four existing strains of the virus Den 1, 2, 3 and 4, a new variant known as Den 5 has emerged in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak though there's no evidence of it being transmitted to humans.
Scientists have urged the public not to be distracted by the new strain of virus because for the first time in three decades, they are inching closer towards finding a lasting cure for a deadly virus that has the potential to infect up to 100 million people each year.
Until a vaccine is commercially available, a multi-pronged approach scientists say is needed. While fogging is certainly one way to go, the public must also do their part to eliminate the breeding grounds for mosquitoes.