For a physician in Malaysia, Dengue is considered as a bread and butter disease. Since Dengue was first discovered in Malaysia in early 1900, it had claimed many lives. Unfortunately, to date, there is NO cure for this disease.
The current Dengue epidemic/outbreak, which started almost 11 months ago, somewhere in April 2013, is one of the longest and most disastrous episodes I have ever seen during my 17 years of service. I have never seen such a long epidemic before and it looks like there is no end coming. Unfortunately, our public who screams when they hear about 3-4 H1N1 cases or Hand Foot Mouth syndrome seems not to be bothered about Dengue. They take it very lightly as though it is a non-fatal disease. For the year 2013, Dengue had claimed almost 94 lives. The number has reached 17 deaths in just 37 days of this year! Remember, majority of these patients are young and healthy individuals. JB hospital is having 1 death every week since November 2013!!
Where are we going wrong? It is a preventable disease and a holistic approach is needed. Our public health officers seem to be overloaded with this epidemic, so much so, they do not even come and interview any dengue cases in the wards anymore. Personally, I feel it is of no value. As long as they are aware the number of patients and where they are from, actions should be taken. Unfortunately, I feel that we are losing the battle. We are still deploying the same strategy since the last 50 years or so, which clearly has failed to control the disease this time around! The actions taken also seem to be rather slow due to shortage of manpower and lack of budget. What is the point of notifying within 24hrs when no action is taken within 48 hours?
Opening “Klinik Kesihatans” up to 10pm is not going to solve any problems either. Our Health Minister announced before the Chinese New Year that KKs would be opened till 10pm in Dengue Hotspot areas to reduce the congestion at Government Hospital emergency departments (ER). I think the more important issue is to educate the public that emergency department is for emergencies and not for cold cases. In 2003, MOH introduced outpatient clinics in Emergency Department with a rate of RM 40/hour. It was open to all doctors in the hospital. It failed. Subsequently, with the same reason of reducing ER patient load, most major KKs were asked to open till 9.30pm with a locum rate of RM 80/hour since 2008. Again, did this reduce the ER department patient load? The answer is NO. What we need is “public-private” integration, which will make our GPs as part of the primary health care system supported by a National Health Financing Scheme. This is what 1Care “suppose” to do but due to the current political situation, it has been postponed once again.
Now, with the excuse of Dengue, all KKs in hotspot areas are being asked to open till 10pm. Likely, even after this epidemic settles (hopefully), the opening hours of these clinics will remain, with the excuse of “ receiving good response from the public” as the 1Malaysia clinics supposedly did. The GPs nearby these clinics will definitely be affected. Eventually, MOs in KKs will be asked to work shift duties in order for KKM not to pay the “overtime allowance” of RM 80/hour. A pilot project of shift duty was conducted in KK PD last year. With close to 15 MOs in major KKs, it is not impossible to introduce shift duty. It will come, whether you like it or not. The only problem will be safety issues especially for female doctors and lack of support staffs despite having enough doctors.
What are we lacking in the preventive measures for Dengue? Firstly, we are still going after the Aedes mosquito after the incidence has already occurred (chasing from the back). Fogging and house inspection are only done almost 2-3 weeks after a case is reported in a particular area. By this time, the mosquito would have bitten hundreds more and would have laid hundreds of eggs all over the place. Should we think about detecting Aedes mosquito breeding area before it even starts to infect people with the Dengue Virus? During the 2003 outbreak, the then Johor state Pengarah Dr Prethapa Senan came up with a good idea. He decided to place a half cut mineral water bottle(small), on a wooden stick, pricked to the ground every few kilometers in a hotspot area. The health inspector will periodically check these bottles and immediate fogging and cleaning of the affected area with residence help is done, if an Aedes mosquito larva is detected. I found it rather interesting and although it involves a lot of work, it did bring down the number of dengue cases and the epidemic was over in just 6 months. Another issue that I always wonder is to what happened to discussions between MOH and researchers and academics from our universities?? I am sure many academics are involved in Dengue research and their expertise may be useful in controlling the disease.
As far as I am concerned, this Dengue outbreak should be considered as a National Disaster and a proper disaster plan should be developed for an all out war against Dengue. BUT I don’t see it happening from our political masters who are more interested in making “jokes” everyday in public. I don’t see any massive adverts to “scare” the people in the mainstream news, papers as well as alternative medias. This disaster should send chills through the spines of every resident so that the people will get frightened and do the needful to help the authorities. The Ministry should work hand in hand with the residence rather than working on their own. There is no point having mortality meeting after a death has occurred and only after that, inspections are done at the deceased house and surroundings to “prevent” another death!! Whatever said, Dengue is a public health issue and not a clinical issue.
There is NO cure for Dengue. IT is your own body’s immune system that kills you. That’s why the complications occur after the fever settles as your immune system starts to produce antibodies. It is also the reason why a secondary infection is more fatal than the primary infection. Many patients have the idea that early admission to hospital can cure their Dengue but frankly, the body cures itself. The only thing that doctors do is to keep you well hydrated and treat the complications, hoping that your body will over come it’s own immune system’s assault. Thus, there are also many Dengue cases that can be managed on an outpatient basis. The most important thing is that the patients need to be monitored by an experienced doctor. From my experience, when complications occur, many will die no matter what we as doctors do! You survive purely by luck!
Whether anyone realize it or not, this outbreak is a huge public health burden and draining huge amount of money. The insurance companies are bleeding billions of ringgits due to huge amount of admission to private hospitals. Many of these admissions may not be necessary but the fact remains that a patient can only use his medical card if he/she gets admitted. Thus, there are many unnecessary admission to private hospitals simply because the insurance companies do not cover outpatient treatment. I would suggest that insurance companies should make some adjustment during this outbreak to cover outpatient treatments of Dengue. This will definitely save a lot of cost for them.
It is rather sad to see young patients dying from a tiny virus and a mosquito. Many at times, we just watch this patient’s die right in front of our eyes as we stand helpless! May this epidemic come to an end soon………………
National dengue alert
Last updated on 6 February 2014 – 10:34pm
Annie Freeda Cruez
KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 6, 2014): The dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever situation is worsening nationwide, with the number of cases hitting 9,453 and 17 deaths, all within the first 37 days of this year.
For the same period last year, the figures were only 2,559 cases and five deaths.
Expressing concern, Deputy Director-General of Health (Public Health) Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said today: “Dengue is not only a big issue in Malaysia but also globally, as countries worldwide are experiencing an increase in deaths and cases and this is very worrying.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), dengue cases has grown dramatically around the world in recent decades. Over 2.5 billion people – more than 40% of the world’s population – are now at risk from dengue and WHO currently estimates that there may be 50 million to 100 million dengue infections worldwide every year.
Lokman said the ministry has intensified its efforts to contain the outbreak but added that the public also needs to play an important role by keeping their houses and surroundings clean and free of mosquito breeding grounds.
“We can only contain the outbreak with public cooperation, especially from people living in urban areas,” he said, adding that three states have shown high incidences of the disease – Negri Sembilan, Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya and Sarawak.
He said that in view of the situation, even Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam was going to the ground once every two weeks to check on the situation.
The ministry has identified 594 dengue hotspots in the country, with 115 in Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, Lokman said.
He urged members of the public suffering from high fever (40°C/ 104°F) accompanied by two of the following symptoms: severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands or rashes, to seek immediate medical help.
“Do not wait till the situation worsens as severe dengue is a potentially deadly complication,” he said, adding that all hospitals and clinics were on the alert for dengue cases.
Extension of govt health clinics hours soon
PUTRAJAYA: Plans are afoot to extend the operating hours of government health clinics to accommodate the rising number of dengue patients, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
The move followed a 251% increase in dengue cases recorded in the first four weeks of this month, when 7,370 cases were reported against 2,098 in the same period last year.
A total of 2,229 cases were recorded throughout last week alone, marking a new weekly record high for dengue cases in the country’s history, he added.
“The number of patients in hospitals has increased significantly, especially at the emergency departments, where there is a need to reduce the load.
“There are already some health clinics that are open until 10pm, but we will study the possibility of extending their operating hours, especially at high-density areas in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, where the load is heavy at the hospitals.
“Not all dengue cases require patients to be warded as some can be monitored without being warded depending on the doctor’s instructions,” he said at the ministry here yesterday.
He said a recent study conducted by the ministry found that the reproduction rate of the Aedes mosquitoes remained high in Penang (3.8%), followed by Sarawak (3.7%), Perlis (2.6%), Malacca (2.2%), Negri Sembilan (2.1%), Selangor (1.7%), Sabah (1.6%), and Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya (1.5%).
Dr Subramaniam called on owners of premises that ensure that their places are free of Aedes mosquitos.
On dengue, what is the Health Ministry’s action plan? – Malaysian Doctor
FEBRUARY 07, 2014
Since early this year we have been hearing a lot of statistical data on the rise of dengue cases especially in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
The number of deaths is rising and number of aedes index statistics is also rising.
Dengue is a disease spread by a known vector the aedes mosquito. Control of the vector is an integral approach in managing the disease.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has been very reactive in their approach of the problem so far by having many mortality review meetings and now extending clinic hours of its Klinik Kesihatan.
In other words more work for their clinical arm i.e. doctors that are seeing patients. The same doctors that are already overworked with increased number of patients are now expected to work longer hours to see more patients.
What we have yet to hear from MoH is what is their Public Health approach in preventing the continuing rise of the disease? The whole Public Health campaign against dengue has clearly failed with the rise in cases.
We wonder how much has been spent on the dengue awareness campaign last year by the District Health Officers in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. We also wonder why when there are deaths in dengue only clinicians are questioned on their duties and not the District Health Offices.
When crime rates are high we question what is the police doing about it? Similarly when preventable disease rate is high we should be questioning what is the public health officers doing about it?
So is there someone in MoH that can provide holistic solution rather than spewing out statistical data only? – February 7, 2014.
* Malaysian Doctor reads The Malaysian Insider.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.