Number of dengue cases in Malaysia to rise further when El Nino hits

A banner showing the index of dengue cases at PPRT Pantai in Bangsar.
A banner showing the index of dengue cases at PPRT Pantai in Bangsar. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - If last year was bad, this year could see a far worse dengue problem in Malaysia. The number of cases has been soaring since November, with a whopping 3,337 cases in the first week of this year alone.

That is 1,000 cases more than the average of 2,300 cases per week last year.

The last week of December saw 2,511 cases with four deaths.

On top of these high numbers, the Health Ministry has warned that the El Nino effect could cause a 50 per cent spike.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry announced on Jan 8 that the El Nino phenomena that brings hot and dry weather is expected to hit the country from the end of January to March, said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

"With the hot weather, the life cycle of Aedes mosquitoes, from eggs to adulthood will be shortened to seven days and this will increase the mosquito population during the period," he said in a press statement on Monday (Jan 11).

Dr Noor Hisham also said the high temperatures would cause mosquitoes to be active and increase the frequency of biting and speed up the spread of virus.

He reminded people who stock up water during the hot season to ensure that there was no mosquitoes breeding.

"This dengue issue needs to be tackled through more creative, innovative, comprehensive and integrated methods," he said.

He added that the ministry hoped that all ministries, agencies and NGOs as well as the society, would take proactive preventive measures.

Dr Noor Hisham said that from Jan 3 to 9, the number of dengue cases reported had been showing an upward trend since early November.

The increasing cases involved 13 states except Kedah and Labuan.

The number of outbreak locations was higher, 1,044 compared with 907 the week before and the number of hotspots increased from 145 to 161 involving Selangor (122), Johor (22), Perak (8), Penang (4), Sabah (2), Negri Sembilan (2) and the Federal Territory (1).

Last year, 120,836 dengue cases had been reported, an increase of 11.2 per cent or 12,138 cases compared with 108,698 cases in 2014.

Dr Noor Hisham said the number of deaths also increased from 215 in 2014 to 336 last year, an increase of 56 per cent.

The main reasons for the continued increasing numbers were the unhygienic environment, people throwing rubbish indiscriminately and lack of garbage management, he said.

People movement, high population and rapid urbanisation had also contributed to the increase, he added.