Dengue deaths in Malaysia surge almost four times due to new strain

A pest control worker sprays insecticide to help control the spread of dengue fever carried by mosquitoes in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 27, 2014. Malaysia is reeling from a deadly outbreak of dengue, with nearly four times more deaths so far this year
A pest control worker sprays insecticide to help control the spread of dengue fever carried by mosquitoes in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 27, 2014. Malaysia is reeling from a deadly outbreak of dengue, with nearly four times more deaths so far this year compared with the same period in 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia is reeling from a deadly outbreak of dengue, with nearly four times more deaths so far this year compared with the same period in 2013.

As of Aug 30, Malaysia reported 131 deaths and 68,144 infections. This compares with 38 deaths and 18,923 cases over the same period last year, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The spike in numbers is partly due to a more virulent strain of dengue known as DEN-2, the report quoted experts as saying.

"When a new strain enters an area, we unfortunately will see a spike in dengue cases and dengue deaths because of people not having immunity to that particular type of serotype (virus)," said Dr Donald Shepard of Brandeis University, who has done extensive research on dengue.

Dr Rose Nani Mudin from the Malaysian Ministry of Health's vector-borne diseases section told the newspaper that DEN-2 is especially dangerous.

Other reasons for the surge in numbers include increasing mobility of people in Malaysia, which moved the virus around the country.

Malaysia also has had a prolonged dry season this year and occasional heavy rains, creating perfect mosquito-breeding conditions.

"The Aedes mosquito can lay eggs even in one small teaspoon of water. One mosquito can lay about 100 eggs. Imagine, if all these eggs hatch and become adult mosquitoes. There will be 100 mosquitoes within one week," Dr Rose said.

The densely populated state of Selangor has been particularly hard hit, according to the report. It has the highest number of cases nationwide at 34,404 and 51 deaths from Jan 30 to Aug 30, compared with 8,694 cases and 10 deaths during the same period last year.