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 disease

Press Statement
by Dr Tan Seng Giaw

(Kuala Lumpur, Thursday):  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 dithers.

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