We all must be very concerned regarding the dengue issue. Despite it is a common issue, when it comes with El Nino, the number of dengue cases will increase greatly. The warm weather encourages mosquitoes to become more aggressive and its life cycle will become shorter than usual. In addition to that, the drought caused by El Nino forces people to store water to meet their daily need of water thus increasing the mosquito breeding areas.

Besides that, we also have an alert on Zika virus. Even though there are no cases in Malaysia yet, we still need to take precautions. A total of 18 481 dengue fever cases were recorded in Malaysia from January 3 until February 10. Selangor had the highest number of cases at 9,034 followed by Johor (2,827) and Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur (1,145). 

There are 2 types of aedes mosquito which are aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus which transmit the dengue virus. Both are aggressive during daytime. Aedes aegypti lives in a house together with humans, breeding under the rooftops, porches and hiding between the curtains while aedes albopictus stays outside the house and breed anywhere.

Generally, Aedes is active in the morning from 6.30 am to 8.30 am and in the evening from 5.30pm to 8.30pm. They can also be active at other times if the weather is favourable and the temperature is less than 28°C.

Dengue Fever and Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (a more severe form) are the most common mosquito-borne viral diseases in the world. Dengue fever is an illness transmitted by female Aedes mosquito. The disease is caused by a genus called Flavirus. Once bitten, the symptom only shown after 3 to 14 days. One symptoms of dengue is a sudden and continuous high fever.

Another visible symptom is the appearance of red spots on the skin. Severe ache in joints, bones, muscles, eyes and head are also signs of dengue. A sudden loss of appetite, vomiting and stomach aches are also signs of dengue fever. If you are facing these symptoms, quickly seek treatment from doctor and do not hold it until tomorrow. 

Dengue is one of the deadliest diseases in the world but there are ways we can control and prevent it from happening. People are urged to keep their house compound clean and eliminate aedes mosquito breeding grounds. We must close all containers holding water to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs. Mosquitoes even can breed in a container as small as 20 cents coin with water.

Their eggs will attach to the wall of containers. We need to brush the container and pour it with hot water (80° C and above) to kill the eggs instead of simply throwing away the water. Without doing that, the eggs may still alive even in dry condition for 6 to 9 months. The eggs can hatch to become larva within 30 minutes to 1 hour when there is water.

Besides that, here are some precautionary steps you can take to control and prevent dengue.
• Change the water and clean all water tanks, vases, bathing tank and drains once a week.
• Clean all rain gutters to prevent water stagnancy
• Ensure all materials which collect water such as old tyres, glass or empty cans is properly disposed of to eliminate aedes breeding grounds.
• Bury all vessels and materials which can collect water.
• Use larvae killing insecticide.
• Fix mosquito net to the windows

Prevention is better than cure. Everyone must play their part to prevent dengue.

Debbie Injan Anak Andrew Jumat
Research and Policy Executive
Forum Air Malaysia