We call on the Health Minister to reconsider
declaring the country as facing a dengue epidemic not just an endemic as he
has always maintained so that we can muster effective efforts to fight the
by Dr Tan Seng Giaw
The Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng should do away with his reluctance
to declare a dengue epidemic in Malaysia. Although he insists on calling the
wave of dengue cases due to the emergence of a new strain of the virus as
endemic, the infection is getting out of control. He has obfuscated the
problem by shifting the blame on the local authorities.
After Lim Kit Siang and other DAP leaders went to the Human Rights
Commission (Suhakam) on 27 January, 2003 to express dissatisfaction with the
Health Ministry’s handling of the dengue epidemic thus infringing the rights
to life, Datuk Chua said local authorities were responsible for 76% of
dengue cases. He appears out of focus.
The Prevention And Control Of Infectious Diseases Act, 1988, defines
epidemic as an extension of a disease by a multiplication of cases in an
area. The number of cases of dengue in Malaysia has extended from over
27,000 cases in the 1998 epidemic to over 32,000 in 2002.
Article 10(1) of the Act says that every adult occupant of any house in
which any infectious diseases appear, and every person in charge of , or in
the company of , and every person not being a medical practitioner attending
on, any person suffering from or who has died of an infectious disease
shall, upon becoming aware of the existence of such disease, with the least
practicable delay notify the officer in charge of the nearest district
health office or government health facility or police station or notify the
nearest village head of the existence of such disease.
Article 10(2) stipulates that every medical practitioner who treats or
becomes aware of the existence of any infectious disease in any premises
shall, with the least practicable delay, give notice of the existence of the
infectious disease to the nearest Medical Officer of Health in the form
prescribed by regulations made under this Act.
Article 6(1) reads: whenever notification is received under the
International Regulations that an infected area exists outside Malaysia, the
Minister may by order in the Gazette declare such area to be an infected
area for the purpose of the Act.
In July, 2002, the World Health Organization (WTO) warned of a possible
dengue pandemic in the region. Seven months later, the Health Minister still
We remind Datuk Chua that his Ministry is notified of all cases of dengue
and that he is empowered to declare an epidemic. Instead of seeking a
scapegoat for the spread of the disease, he should stop vacillating and call
an epidemic an epidemic. Do something more concrete about it.
* Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National
Vice-Chairman and MP for Kepong