There is an alarming rise in dengue fever case in Malaysia. Dengue is an infectious disease caused by a virus. Common in warm, wet areas, a person can get it if he or she is bitten by an infected mosquito. Outbreaks happen during the rainy season. Most people with dengue recover within two weeks.

Some dengue infections are severe and cause bleeding from your nose, gums or under your skin. Severe dengue can also cause massive bleeding and shock, which is life-threatening.

Symptoms of classic dengue fever usually start within four to seven days with symptoms like fever, nausea and vomiting, pain behind the eye, severe headache, severe joint and muscle pain.

Now we have heard of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes and other possible treatments for Dengue and how far away are we from a vaccine or cure for dengue.

Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah director general of Health Malaysia, said at the moment, there is no dengue vaccine available yet worldwide.

Currently, a few dengue vaccine trials are ongoing in many countries including Malaysia. One company has submitted a potential dengue vaccine for registration with the Pharmacy Bureau, Ministry of Health Malaysia and the ministry is at present evaluating on the impact and efficacy of implementing dengue vaccine in this country.

In the absence of a vaccine, many diagnosed with the disease are already accepting traditional treatment such as papaya leaf juice at hospitals and treatment at home.

Dr Noor Hisham said the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) had conducted a study on papaya leaves juice in 2013. The study showed that papaya leaves juice significantly accelerates the increase in platelet count among patients with dengue fever and dengue haemorrhagic fever.

However, papaya leaves juice is only a supplement that gives supportive effect and it is therefore not a treatment. Patients still need to seek proper treatment in hospitals to prevent dengue complications such as multi-organ failure, shock syndrome and bleeding. At the moment, there are no other studies with regard to traditional treatment for dengue, he said.

Asked if the local councils are responsible for the eradication of breeding ground for Aedes mosquito and if MoH is satisfied with the level of enforcement by the local councils, Dr Noor Hisham said: ͞In order to overcome dengue in the country, Ministry of Health has established a dengue task force committee that involves seven ministries and local councils.

A weekly meeting is conducted and the issues and problems regarding dengue prevention and control activities are discussed to seek for best solutions. The local councils play an important role and they are very supportive in tackling the dengue problems especially in handling the issues of illegal dumping grounds. For example, Kajang Municipal Council has increased the rubbish collection
frequency from two times per week to four times per week and without any amount limit of rubbish collection.

He also added that Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) had increased their enforcement activities by placing enforcement officers in each of the 24 zones.

So far, seven individuals have been caught and compounded for illegal rubbish dumping. However, the level of enforcement by the local councils with regard to issues of illegal rubbish dumping still needs to be intensified, said Dr Noor Hisham.

Over the years, MoH has been successful in controlling several diseases for example Malaria. On some of the that will be implemented by MoH to eradicate dengue in the future, Dr Noor Hisham said for malaria, there are drugs to kill the parasite that causes the disease and thus reduce the source of infection to others.

Moreover, we can effectively promote and implement the usage of mosquito net in endemic areas as the peak biting time of the mosquito is during bedtime.

We can also manage the breeding of the malaria mosquito vector as it breeds in a specific ecology, which could be manipulated or managed appropriately. However, there is no drug to kill the dengue virus in a patient and carrier.

In contrast, the Aedes mosquito not only bites when we are awake and active, it also breeds in any place that can collect water. Hence this makes the prevention and control of dengue fever far more difficult compared to malaria. As there is no cure or vaccine available for dengue, MoH will emphasise on environmental cleanliness initiatives in collaboration with other ministries and agencies including community participations, he said.

When asked what role can NGOs and corporate organisations play as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme to control the spread of dengue? Dr Noor Hisham said, NGOs and corporate organisations can play an important role in promoting community participation in dengue prevention activities.

This will most often involve health education, source reduction, and environmental cleanliness activities. Examples of CSR programmes are the Dengue Free Malaysia Movement started byCountry Heights Group of Companies and Dengue Patrol Programme in schools by Sanofi Pasture.

Their objectives are to spread the dengue message to all Malaysians and emphasise what each and every one of us can do to fight dengue. They have volunteers and students to help in running the programmes.

Aedes Mosquitoes Swarms To Plague Malaysia
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