Health authorities should explain why they have dragged their feet and  have not launched a nation-wide alert on the virulent  dengue outbreak when in  the first 10 months,  2002 is already the third worst year in the  number of dengue deaths and may end up with even higher fatalities than the worst dengue years of 1997 and 1998

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Monday): Deputy Health Minister, Datuk  Sulaiman Mohamad said that the Health Ministry would declare a nation-wide alert if the number of dengue cases continue to rise  in the country. (Nanyang Siang Pau)

Sulaiman’s indifference to the rampage and the deaths caused by the current dengue outbreak is  most irresponsible and appalling. The health authorities should explain why they have dragged their feet and  have not yet  launched a nation-wide alert on the virulent  dengue outbreak when  the first 10 months of this year is already the third worst year in the  number of dengue deaths and by the end of December, 2002  may tote up even higher fatalities than the worst dengue years of 1997 and 1998.


Yesterday’s Nanyang Siang Pau front-page headline  report gave the somber news that in the first ten months of the year, the dengue outbreak has claimed the lives of 40 people, including  12 in Selangor, 13 in Johore, 10 in Perak and  three in Negri Sembilan.


According to data from the World Health Organisation, which are  available on the Internet, the figures for  “Dengue fever/dengue haemorrhagic fever cases and deaths” for Malaysia  from 1991 to 2000 are 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


This means that  the dengue outbreak in the first 10 months of this year is already the third worst in the nation’s history after 1997 and 1998, which claimed 50 and 58 lives respectively, and there is a likelihood that the final death toll from the dengue outbreak could exceed the figures of both these years by the end of 2002.

How many more people must die from the dengue outbreak before the Health Ministry is prepared to decare a nation-wide alert?


Health authorities, including the Deputy Health Minister, should stop watching the chart in their offices on the incidence of dengue cases and fatalities before deciding on whether to declare a nation-wide alert and get off their backsides 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.


The medical authorities should stop trifling with human lives and must adopt the attitude that another death from the dengue outbreak is completely unacceptable and  one too many.


The government should ensure  full public awareness of the dengue outbreak, that fogging is not an  adequate response and instill  the urgency for a two-point anti-dengue strategy: :


  • Seek immediate medical help in cases of fever (with or without rash), which is  a matter of  life and death for children as many fatal cases were due to patients seeking treatment late; and 

  • An  effective vector control programme 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.


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.


There has been an alarming increase in the number of dengue cases and fatalities after August. From various scattered media reports, there was a 70% increase in Selangor in the number of dengue cases in the three months from August to October, 2002, which nation-wide, would make this year  an even worse year for dengue outbreak than 1998, both in the number of cases as well as deaths – 27,379 cases and 58 deaths in 1998.


What is most worrying are reports from paediatricians that  the fatalities  of children in the current outbreak  are higher than previous years. 


A matter of immediate urgency is that the health authorities should fully release all the data on the number of dengue cases and deaths, state-by-state and month-by-month,  so that the people are fully aware and alert about the deadly dengue outbreak.



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman