Call on Khir Toyo to emulate Perak Mentri Besar to launch a state-wide anti-dengue campaign so that the month-long festivities for the Sultan of Selangor's coronation would not be marred by unnecessary and avoidable dengue deaths

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Klang,  Sunday): The most recent case of dengue death in Selangor in the worst dengue epidemic in the history of the state occurred in Klang on the last day of February. An Indonesian domestic help, Suwendah Tasrip, 30, of No. 28, Lintang Luku, Klang died at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah General Hospital on Friday, 28th February 2003 at about 6 am after nine days of hospitalization for dengue.

Suwendah's corpse was flown back to Indonesia this morning. Suwendah's case was particularly tragic as she was completing her service later this month and was expectantly making preparations to return home to Indonesia for good, after about 12 years working as a domestic help in Klang.

She came down with fever on 18th February and was treated by a private clinic, but when her blood test the next day showed low platelets, she was admitted to the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah General Hospital the very same day on 19th February.

Suwendah seemed to be well on 27th February and was talking about being discharged the next day when her employer visited her, but on the same night, her condition deteriorated and she was sent into the ICU and died the next morning.

Yesterday, in my tenth email in 12 days to the Selangor Mentri Besar on the worst dengue epidemic in Selangor's history and which is still raging on unchecked causing unnecessary and avoidable deaths, I asked Khir Toyo whether he was aware of the latest dengue death in Selangor as well as the total number of dengue deaths in Selangor for (I) the whole of 2002; (ii) January 2003 and (iii) February 2003, and why they had not been made public.

Khir Toyo cannot claimed to be fully discharging his responsibilities as the head of the state government to spearhead a campaign to bring the worst dengue epidemic in the state under control, when he does not himself have the latest, most timely, full and accurate information about dengue cases and deaths in the state, and what is even more important, to make them available immediately to the people.

I call on Khir Toyo to emulate the Perak Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Mohamad Tajol Rosli to launch a high-powered state-wide anti-dengue campaign so that the month-long festivities for the Sultan of Selangor's coronation would not be marred by unnecessary and avoidable dengue deaths.

Perak DAP State Assemblymen have reported to me that they attended the launching of the Perak state-wide anti-dengue campaign in Ipoh this morning, which included an anti-dengue exhibition, by Tajol Rosli.

The Perak State Government is the first state government to launch a high-powered state-wide anti-dengue campaign, although it should have been held more than seven months ago immediately after the warning by the World Health Organisation (WHO) last July of a possible dengue pandemic in the region, including Malaysia.

Although the Perak state-wide anti-dengue campaign came too late to save the at least 16 lives lost in the state as a result of the dengue epidemic, which is still raging on unchecked, it is still ahead of all other state governments - especially Selangor which is the worst affected dengue state, with the most number of dengue cases in the whole country.

Enough lives have been lost in the current dengue epidemic in Selangor and the country, and the Health Ministry together with all the state governments should launch a high-powered anti-dengue campaign to bring the epidemic to an end.

In my fifth email to Khir Toyo on 22nd February, I had asked him why he was not spearheading a campaign to clean up aedes mosquitoes-infested areas in Selangor to make them dengue-free and save lives and stop unnecessary and avoidable deaths instead of leading State VIPs on sensational raids of vice dens.

Khir Toyo should not lose sight of his priorities and should immediately lead State Exco members, top State Government officials like the State Secretary and the State Financial Officer, and Municipal Council Presidents to lead a government-community anti-dengue campaign to eliminate the dengue menace from the state.

Khir Toyo should return to the more responsible attitude of the Selangor State Government a year ago with regard to public health care and the sanctity of human lives.

In March last year, the Selangor State Government had convened an emergency meeting to deal with the deadly dengue outbreak because for the year till 9th March 2002, there were 823 cases of dengue and two deaths, which was a 54 per cent increase from the 536 cases for the same period the previous year in 2001.

The dengue epidemic in Selangor state in the past year had been many times worse, as Khir Toyo has conceded in his email reply to that that there were at least 9,385 reported dengue cases and 15 dengue deaths (which err seriously as an understatement of the actual number of deaths) as of 28th December 2002.

However, Khir Toyo and the State Exco seemed to have developed a very high threshold of tolerance and apathy to dengue deaths, to the extent that a death from dengue is just regarded as an embarrassing statistic to be hidden from public knowledge instead of a human tragedy compounded by its totally unnecessary and avoidable character.

It is most shocking that after some nine months of the worst dengue epidemic in Selangor and the country, with over a hundred dengue deaths nation-wide last year and possibly some 20 deaths this year, the people are not fully aware of the raging and deadly dengue epidemic or the basic facts about the dengue disease to take effective preventive actions.

For instance, many people are still complaining about clogged drains and stagnant dirty water for breeding dengue-spreading aedes mosquitos, when aedes mosquitoes breed only on still clean water. Mosquitoes which breed in clogged dirty water cause malaria and other diseases but not dengue.

It is a great failure of the Health Ministry and the Selangor as well as other state governments, that information about the aedes mosquitoes and the dengue disease have not become common knowledge for every person and household, as such knowledge is the prerequisite for a successful nation-wide government-people campaign to end the dengue epidemic.

Khir Toyo's top priority is to launch a high-powered campaign to make sure that every person, old and young, men and women, Malay, Chinese, Indian in Selangor immediately know about the following facts concerning the dengue epidemic:


1.Dengue is transmitted by female Aedes mosquitoes, which tend to bite during the day or at dusk and breed generously in small quantities of water. These mosquitoes acquire the virus while feeding on the blood of an infected person. Infected mosquitoes can transmit the virus for the rest of their lives.

2.There are two types of dengue fever:

(a) Classical dengue fever: The symptoms are high fever and bone pain. Recovery period is one to two weeks. Infants and young children may get rashes. Older children and adults may have severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains and also rashes.

(b) Dengue haemorrhagic fever: The symptoms are fever, bleeding of the skin, gums and gastrointestinal tract, liver enlargement and in some cases, even circulatory failure. The illness commonly begins with a sudden rise in body temperature accompanied by facial flushes. The fever usually continues for two to seven days and can cause body temperatures to rise as high as 40-41 degrees Celsius. In some cases, severe fever could lead to shock or death within 12 to 24 hours.


1.It is usually between 3mm and 4mm in length, discounting its leg length.

2.It is totally black apart from white "spots" on the body and head and white rings on the legs.

3.The eggs of most mosquito species are laid together in a raft form but Aedes eggs are laid separately, thus allowing them to spread over large surfaces of water if conditions permit.

4.It only lays eggs in clean water - it is very domesticated and breeds in household containers such as flower vases and water storage jars. Roof gutters, watering cans and discarded containers around the house where rainwater collects are perfect breeding grounds. Abandoned construction sites also provide favourable places.

5.The eggs can survive for very long periods in a dry state, often for over a year. Most mosquitoes can live in forested areas on animal blood, but the Aedes mosquito relies on humans and will only bite animals if there are no people around.


At present, there is no vaccine available for dengue. Neither is there specific treatment. However, careful clinical management by experienced doctors and nurses frequently saves the lives of patients with dengue haemorrhagic fever. The only way to control dengue is to combat the Aedes mosquito.


1.Make sure there is no access to stored water in which the female Aedes can lay eggs. Change the water in containers at least once a week. It takes only seven days for an egg to become an adult. If you need to store water, do not forget to cover it.

2.Clear the garden of unused items that collect rainwater.

3.Inspect roof gutters regularly for blockage.

4.Apply oil to water, which will cause the larvae and pupae to suffocate

5.Use insecticide to kill adult mosquitoes.

6.Put salt into flowerpots, vases, water containers and cover septic tanks.

Knowledge of these basic facts about the aedes mosquitoes and dengue disease can make the difference between life and death. It is most tragic and a reflection of government failure and irresponsibility that such knowledge has not become a second nature of Malaysians after more than 30,000 dengue cases and 100 dengue deaths in the current dengue epidemic.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman