Recently, however, there has been a sudden upsurge in new dengue cases, leading to a renewed awareness of the problem. While the number of cases has since dropped, the threat is ever-present and Malaysians should not be complacent and assume that the outbreak will not occur again.
The main symptom of dengue fever is a sudden and continuous high fever, which is a certain indicator of the disease.
Other symptoms include headache, red rashes on the skin, as well as acute pain in the bones, muscles, joints and eyeballs. Patients will also have no appetite and suffer from vomiting and stomach pain.
Severe cases might cause them to bleed internally as well as from the nose and mouth.
According to Disease Control Division assistant director Dr Mohamad Ikhsan Selamat, many victims often delay going to the doctor when they fall sick, mistaking the symptoms as a sign of ordinary fever.
"While not all the symptoms may present themselves at once, the common sign is the sudden high fever," said Ikhsan. "This fever will not break, even with medication."
Most of the people who died from dengue fever either took traditional medication or visited many different doctors, getting new medication when the previous prescription failed to bring down the fever. This prevented the new doctor from diagnosing dengue.
Ikhsan also said that many dengue deaths occurred four to five days after infection. "What happens is that around that time, the fever will actually go down, so people assume they are getting better and stop taking whatever fever medication they are prescribed.
"Actually, this is a sign of danger, because when the fever goes down, that means the blood vessels have started leaking and internal bleeding has started. By the time the victims realise what is happening, it is often too late."
For children, the danger is especially apparent. "When a child is feverish and complains of a stomach ache, that is a sign of internal bleeding."
Because there is no medicine or vaccine for dengue fever, the best course of action for people who are infected is to seek out proper medical treatment as soon as possible.
No Aedes, no dengue!
The most recent statistics indicate that the number of reported dengue cases has dropped to 510 as of March 19, down 153 cases from the previous week.
Despite this positive development, the public must not be complacent and cease current preventive measures to stop the spread of dengue fever, says Dr Mohamad Ikhsan Selamat (pix), assistant director of the Disease Control Division (DCD).
"Controlling the breeding of Aedes mosquitoes that spread dengue fever is not solely the responsibility of the local health authorities. It falls on everyone to work together and prevent further infections and deaths."
He added that the Ministry of Health needed the cooperation of everyone if they were to continue to try and control the rising number of cases.
"As for the current situation," he said, "we have to thank everyone for all that they have done so far in curbing the spread of the disease. We also want to thank the media for continuously promoting awareness of the disease and also the preventive measures."
DCD director Dr Ramlee Rahmat had previously reminded the public to keep their surrounding environment clean, to dispose of all containers containing clear stagnant water that could be used as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and to also give their cooperation to the authorities when they come to check for the Aedes mosquito larvae.
Ikhsan also said: "If the public notices or suspects a breeding ground for the Aedes mosquito larvae, they can call the ministry at 03-8883 6252 from 8am to 4.30pm to report it."
So, remember this: no Aedes, no dengue.
--- The Sun Daily