Call on Chua Jui Meng to launch  an immediate  high-impact media campaign to create instant nation-wide alert and awareness of the virulent dengue outbreak to stop any more loss of human lives, especially children who have suffered the most fatalities as compared to previous years

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Sunday): DAP calls on the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng to launch an immediate high-impact media campaign to create instant nation-wide alert and awareness of the virulent dengue outbreak to stop the loss of any more loss of  human lives, especially children who have suffered the most fatalities as compared to previous years, and to ensure that 2002 does not become the worst year in the nation's history with the most number of reported dengue cases and the highest case-fatality rate (CFR).

Chua had said on Friday that there had been a rise in the number of cases of dengue fever, with a noticeable increase in the number reported last year compared with 1999 and 2000, and that the number continued its upward trend this year.

However, he failed to release any figures about the number of dengue cases and deaths  this year to impress on the people about the gravity  of the current virulent dengue outbreak, and most inexplicably, he went on to claim  that the situation was  under control when the outbreak was  so serious that it had to be brought to the attention of the Cabinet recently.

The medical authorities should not trifle with human lives and must adopt the attitude that another death from the dengue outbreak is completely unacceptable and  one too many.

The government must seek full public co-operation to devise a proper response to the virulent dengue outbreak to save lives, not only by ensuring full public awareness so that immediate medical help is sought in cases of fever (with or without rash) -  which could mean a matter of  life and death for children  but also effective vector control programmes involving individual households and communities to regularly inspect and destroy Aedes mosquito  breeding places in and around their own houses as well as in nearby  construction sites,  vacant lots and other unoccupied areas where garbage tend to accumulate.

Nanyang Siang Pau today commendably carried a front-page headline report to highlight the seriousness of the virulent dengue outbreak, but I am shocked that it had not been able to get the full co-operation from the Health Ministry to give the people a full and accurate picture of the serious dengue outbreak.

The Nanyang Siang Pao front-page headlined 13,000 dengue cases and some 40 deaths for the year  to date, stating that the dengue outbreak has almost reached the level of the worst year for dengue outbreak in 1998,  alleging that there are now 13,232 cases which is near the number of  13,742 dengue cases in 1998.

In an inside page, Nanyang Siang Pau carried the following table of statistics for the number of dengue cases in the past 10 years::

Year        No of Dengue Cases
2001             7,110
2000             3,723
1999             4,718
1998           13,742
1997             7,938
1996             6,058
1995             5,212
1994             2,246
1993             3,514
1992             2,777
1991             3,070

These figures are completely different from those given by the World Health Organisation and available on the Internet for "Dengue fever/dengue haemorrhagic fever cases and deaths" for Malaysia  from 1991 to 2000 as follows:

Year            No. of cases            Deaths

1991              6,628                      39
1992              5,473                      24
1993              5,615                      23
1994              3,133                      13
1995              6,543                      28
1996            14,255                      30
1997            19,544                      50
1998            27,379                      58
1999            10,008                        -
2000              7,118                      37

The most glaring difference is that the number of dengue cases reported in Malaysia in  1998 given by WHO was 27,379 and not 13,742 given by Nanyang Siang Pau.

The Health Ministry should explain why it is not prepared to co-operate fully with the media to give all the relevant data  to create full  public awareness about the danger of the current dengue outbreak.

There  are serious indications that the number of cases and deaths from  dengue fever and dengue haemorrhagic fever in the current outbreak might match and even exceed those of 1998 as given by WHO, making 2002 the
nation's worst year in dengue outbreak.

As the Health Ministry has failed to make regular releases of  dengue cases and deaths, we can only depend on the various reports in the mass media to get a picture of the outbreak.

The Star reported on 22nd July 2002 that 11 people had been killed in the first six months of the year  in  the dengue outbreak, which occurred in northern Perak, central Selangor and southern Negri Sembilan states, with Perak reporting a total of 1,089 cases and Selangor 1,222.

In the first seven months of the year, the total number of dengue cases nationwide  totalled 12,992 cases (as compared to 8,848 for the same period for 2001), with Selangor topping the list  with 4,148 cases, Kuala Lumpur 3,158 cases, Perak 1,353 cases,  Penang 547 cases, Terengganu 490 cases and Kedah 465 cases.

In the middle of  September this year, New Straits Times reported the "alarming surge" in dengue fever figures, with a total of 17,341 cases and 34 deaths reported from January to the end of August, with Selangor topping the list of number of cases at 5,000 followed by Kuala Lumpur with 4,094, with northern Perak, north-eastern Kelantan and southern Johore classified as high-risk.

The Star of 12th October 2002 reported three deaths from dengue in the week between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5, raising the total fatalities in the state to 10 this year  as compared to three for the whole of last year.  The total number of dengue cases reported for Selangor for the year ending on Oct. 5 was 5,986 cases.

Nanyang Siang :Pau today reported that as of November 3, there had been 7,075 dengue cases in Selangor and 12 deaths.

 From these various reports, we get the following   picture of the increasing  severity of the  ballooning crisis in the dengue outbreak for the state of Selangor:

End of June       -    1,222  cases
End of July         -    4,148  cases
End of August   -    5,000  cases
5th October       -    5,986 cases
5th November   -    7,075 cases

As the total number of dengue cases stood at 13,000 in the first seven months of the year, at the rate of Selangor's 70% increase of dengue cases in the three months from August to October, 2002 could  be an even worse year for dengue outbreak than 1998, both in the number of cases as well as

What is most worrying are reports from paediatricias that  the fatalities  of children from the new and more  virulent dengue strain,  Dengue 3, are higher than previous years.  I will ask for a meeting with the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, to  find out why the Health Ministry is adopting such a laid-back attitude when it should have launched a full-scale media campaign to alert all Malaysians about the seriousness of the dengue outbreak.



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman