Dengue. Is there more we can do?

For centuries now, the dreaded dengue virus has plagued mankind and claimed the lives of millions globally each year. With the climate getting hotter due to the El Nino phenomenon, the number of dengue cases in Malaysia has risen according to the Health Ministry’s website, iDengue. Also, a new strain of dengue, DENV-5, has of late been discovered in Malaysia and appears to be the fifth variant of the virus. Elsewhere in Brazil, the dengue virus has evolved into the Zika virus and causes defects in children while still in the mother’s womb. This just proves that dengue has become more dangerous than it was back in the 20th century when we were not so technologically advanced.  So, everyone should play their role in the fight against dengue. Not just the government, but Malaysians too have to be involved in this.

Firstly, the government should issue vaccines to Malaysian citizens that give immunity towards dengue. Recently, researchers in Mexico have developed a vaccine called ‘Dengvaxia’ that is capable of giving immunity towards dengue strains DENV-3 and DENV-4. Although ineffective towards strains DENV-1 and DENV-2, this vaccine is a major breakthrough in the medical world and has the potential to prevent a large number of dengue cases. It has already been tested on people of all ages in various countries and is proven safe. Unfortunately, our Health Ministry refuses to issue this vaccine. According to them, they are still analysing the data of this new vaccine. Many people think that they are hesitant because of its cost. However, issuing this vaccine (for FREE) will greatly reduce the number of dengue cases in Malaysia as well as decrease the cost used to accommodate dengue patients.

Dengvaxia Vaccine
‘Dengvaxia’ vaccine should be administered to provide immunity towards dengue.

Next, human activities that disrupt natural habitats (e.g. deforestation) should be stopped, especially when it is done illegally. A team of researchers from Unimas found out that the DENV-5 virus which used to be spread among monkeys is now jumping to humans. Initially, the farmer who was first infected with it in 2007 was diagnosed with sylvatic  DENV-4. Upon further analysis, it was later revealed that it was, in fact, a new serotype of the virus and had some similarity with DENV-2. The researchers believe that deforestation might have had a role in this as this activity disturbs the ecosystem. As we all know, disturbing the ecological niche would only bring nothing but trouble to us. It is possible that the monkeys had lost their homes and had come into contact with the farmer while carrying the new strain.

Besides that, many students now aspire to immerse themselves in the field of medicine once they graduate. A message to you students, if you ever succeed in entering this field you desire, do your country a favour and help the scientists find ways to cure dengue. I am not saying that our scientists are not doing their jobs, but since there are so many diseases out there that are threatening our society, there are not enough people, or rather, there is not enough focus to study this disease in particular. With a new generation of researchers, our efforts to cure and prevent dengue will come to fruition at a much faster pace.

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The Zika virus is transmitted by Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes.

Furthermore, although most Malaysians are aware of the dangers posed by dengue, many of us are ignorant towards it and act as if it is nothing. Almost every day, we hear stories about people suffering from dengue fever, yet nobody even tries to do something about it. Some do not even know how bad the threat has become. Schools should play an active role in educating students about the dangers of dengue and methods to prevent themselves from acquiring it at a very young age through subjects like Science or Pendidikan Kesihatan. This way, youths will be kept safe as they are equipped with this knowledge.  Aside from that, parents are responsible for reminding their kids that mosquitoes are dangerous and should refrain their children from playing outside at dusk (or even at dawn) as these insects are very active during these times.

Moreover, we people as Malaysians have to be active in the fight against dengue instead of being passive about it by simply ignoring it like how many individuals are doing when the matter does not seem to concern them. Well, news flash! Mosquitoes are blind to races, religions and social statuses. This means that even the Datuks and Datins are vulnerable to it. Therefore, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, must act before it is too late. Small communities like neighbourhoods should frequently hold gotong-royong programmes to clean areas that act as mosquito-breeding grounds. Since mosquitoes don’t necessarily need clean water to reproduce, it is wise to pour out water collected in pots or trash that are lying around the streets (It is sad to admit it, but you do see litter wherever you walk in Malaysia).  People from higher social statuses could donate a sum of money towards research efforts to create the perfect vaccine while the nations’ leaders can work together and discuss methods to pacify this increasing threat. Currently, world leaders are attempting to find a solution to the recent Zika virus that was spreading explosively in Brazil. I suggest they work closely together on this matter and bring this issue to the United Nations as this greatly concerns the matter of human lives. 

In conclusion, the dengue hazard must be dealt with seriously and we cannot afford to turn a blind eye regarding the issue as it has become unsafe. I hope that society will put their best efforts towards this matter and find a way to eradicate this pesky disease once and for all!

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