KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 – Malaysia reported 26,365 dengue cases and 20 fatalities from dengue fever last year, both of which were the lowest in a decade.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah noted that the 26,365 dengue cases reported in 2021 were a 70.8 per cent decline from the previous year with 90,304 cases.
Deaths from dengue fever dropped by 86 per cent to 20 fatalities in 2021 from 145 in 2020.
“The main reason for this drop in dengue cases still cannot be determined, however dengue remains a public health threat in Malaysia during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement today, in conjunction with World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) found a spike in dengue fever cases in 2010, 2015, and 2019.
“The dengue epidemic in Malaysia is expected to record a surge every four to five years. Therefore, dengue fever cases are expected to increase again in 2024 or 2025, with a projected higher incidence than the number of cases reported in 2019,” said Dr Noor Hisham.
He also said the Wolbachia mosquito project undertaken in Malaysia since 2019 has seen positive results, with a significant decline in dengue cases in 22 selected localities that use Wolbachia Aedes mosquitoes to prevent the spread of the dengue virus to humans.
Dr Noor Hisham said dengue vaccines currently in the market are not included in Malaysia’s national immunisation programme as the country has not yet fulfilled criteria set by the World Health Organization (WHO) at a minimum of 80 per cent dengue seroprevalence at age nine years.
MOH’s disease control division and the Malaysia Space Agency have set up a dengue risk mapping system to improve vector control activities in the field.
“Integration of remote sensing technology together with science data applications have enabled accurate temporospatial monitoring, especially towards dengue case burdens and vector control activity planning in the field,” said Dr Noor Hisham.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said separately in a video released to the press in conjunction with NTD Day that the global burden from dengue has increased exponentially in the past four decades.
“This trend is worrying, especially in concert with climate change that has led to global warming which in turn, affects dengue transmission,” he said.
He, however, noted the 71 per cent reduction in dengue cases in Malaysia last year from 2020.
“Malaysia aims to continue on this trajectory by investing in preventive initiatives that will enhance dengue preparedness to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending the epidemic by 2030,” said Khairy.
“By combatting NTDs, we can help build stronger health systems and equitable access to quality health care that is paramount in limiting the transmission of these preventable diseases. We hope that the World NTD Day will be the catalyst to actions in ending NTDs worldwide.”
NTDs comprise 20 diseases, including dengue, chikungunya, and leprosy among others.