Launched in 2011, the objective of this annual event is to raise awareness of dengue and strengthen the regional collaboration in prevention and control. While dengue is most prevalent in ASEAN region, the disease is spreading rapidly with a 30-fold increase in cases worldwide. Today, there are approximately 2.5 billion people at risk in over 100 countries.
Besides resulting in poor health and excess mortality, dengue has also affected the tourism sector and the socioeconomic development due to loss of work and productivity. The economic losses resulting from this disease made it even more compelling to accelerate the prevention and control efforts around the world.
Scientists in Brazil, Australia and the United Kingdom are currently conducting experiments with genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes to help control the emergence of dengue cases. Once the experiments and field trials are completed, the scientists believe that the GM mosquitoes will dramatically reduce the population of Aedes mosquitoes.
Other than that, the continuous spread and intensity of dengue cases have driven the interest and investment in dengue vaccine development. Hence, some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies are working hard to create a vaccine that is safe, effective and affordable. One of these vaccines has successfully advanced to phase-3 clinical trial with an efficacy of 60% and it is expected to be licensed sometime this year.
Meanwhile, the key to dengue control is to tackle the root of this problem by denying Aedes mosquitoes any chance to breed. An integrated mosquito management from Rentokil Initial Malaysia aims to control the breeding of Aedes mosquitoes by attacking each stage of the mosquito’s life cycle with different solutions from larviciding to fogging. At the same time, customers are provided with sanitation advices and informative dengue knowledge through educational materials that can help to reduce their risk of being infected in the long run.
In Malaysia, dengue remains as a serious public health problem. As of 30th May this year, our Ministry of Health has reported a total of 141 deaths. The accumulated cases are now up to 47,112. The hardest hit states include Selangor (27,282), Perak (5,018), Johor (2,986) and Kuala Lumpur (2,938). In 2014, there was a 151% increase in dengue cases compared to 2013—with 108,698 cases and 215 deaths.
There are many factors that contributed to this alarming growth of dengue cases. Firstly, the switch of serotypes dengue virus from DAN2 to DAN1 also added to the surge in dengue cases. Although both serotypes are similar, as they share approximately 65% of their genomes, there is a vast difference in how each one interacts with our antibodies. As a result, people who were previously not exposed to the DAN1 virus are now vulnerable. Besides that, our monsoon season also played a major role in creating pockets of stagnant water that serve as Aedes breeding sites.
Other than that, we are fighting a losing battle due to lack of dengue awareness among Malaysians. As the public continues to litter, dump garbage illegally and practice poor environmental cleanliness that will ultimately lead to the increasing mosquito breeding sites.
As Aedes mosquitoes prefer to breed in stagnant water, by implementing good environmental hygiene practices and sanitation measures may help to minimise the disease. Here are a few simple and proactive tips to keep dengue at bay:
“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mosquito bites have resulted in hundreds of thousands human fatalities every year, making them the deadliest creature in the world. Like any other pests, mosquitoes can also develop resistance towards pesticide, hence, it is extremely important that proactive measures are taken along with eradication of breeding sites and adult mosquitoes in order to minimise the growing numbers of dengue cases.” say Ms. Carol Lam, the Managing Director of Rentokil Initial Malaysia.