Launched in 2011, the objective of this annual event is to raise awareness of dengue and strengthen the regional collaboration in prevention and control. While dengue is most prevalent in ASEAN region, the disease is spreading rapidly with a 30fold increase in cases worldwide. Today, there are approximately 2.5 billion people at risk in over 100 countries.
Besides resulting in poor health and excess mortality, dengue has also affected the tourism sector and the socioeconomic development due to loss of work and productivity. The economic losses resulting from this disease made it even more compelling to accelerate the prevention and control efforts around the world.
In Malaysia, dengue remains as a serious public health problem. As of 30th May this year, our Ministry of Health has reported a total of 141 deaths. The accumulated cases are now up to 47,112. The hardest hit states include Selangor (27,282), Perak (5,018), Johor (2,986) and Kuala Lumpur (2,938). In 2014, there was a 151% increase in dengue cases compared to 2013—with 108,698 cases and 215 deaths.
There are many factors that contributed to this alarming growth of dengue cases. Firstly, the switch of serotypes dengue virus from DAN2 to DAN1 also added to the surge in dengue cases. Although both serotypes are similar, as they share approximately 65% of their genomes, there is a vast difference in how each one interacts with our antibodies. As a result, people who were previously not exposed to the DAN1 virus are now vulnerable. Besides that, our monsoon season also played a major role in creating pockets of stagnant water that serve as Aedes breeding sites.
Other than that, we are fighting a losing battle due to lack of dengue awareness among Malaysians. As the public continues to litter, dump garbage illegally and practice poor environmental cleanliness that will ultimately lead to the increasing mosquito breeding sites.
As Aedes mosquitoes prefer to breed in stagnant water, by implementing good environmental hygiene practices and sanitation measures may help to minimise the disease.