Malaysia’s government urged people yesterday to protect themselves from dengue fever after infections and deaths caused by the mosquito-borne disease doubled in the first weeks of this year.
Eight people died of dengue through Saturday, twice the number of fatalities in the same period last year, the Malaysian Health Ministry said in a statement.
Dengue fever sickened 3,211 people in Malaysia between Jan. 4 and Saturday, up from 1,514 cases in the same period last year, the ministry said.
Authorities attributed the increase to a persistent rainy season and unsanitary conditions around homes that enable mosquitoes to thrive in stagnant water.
More than half the cases occurred in Malaysia’s largest city, Kuala Lumpur, and its neighboring state of Selangor.
“People are aware [of the threat] but they are not taking action,” a ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements. “Maybe they don’t take it seriously if their family isn’t affected.”
The ministry said it has launched a massive publicity campaign advising people to rid their homes and surroundings of flower pots, cans and other trash in which stagnant water can collect and allow mosquitoes to breed.
The dengue virus causes severe joint pain, high fever, nausea and a rash.
In the worst cases it can lead to internal bleeding, liver enlargement, circulatory shutdown and sometimes death. There is no known cure or vaccine.
A Catholic newspaper in Malaysia has defied a ban on using the word “Allah” as a translation for “God,” in a row with the government that has threatened to close the weekly publication.
The editor of the Herald newspaper, Father Lawrence Andrew, said this week’s edition used the banned word and that he intended to continue doing so until the courts rule on the issue next month.
“We find this restriction on the use of ‘Allah’ unacceptable when we have been using it as a translation for ‘God’ for centuries in Malaysia,” he said.
Authorities have said the word should only be used by Muslims.
The government last month ordered a ban on the Herald’s Malay edition until the court makes its final decision.
But after the newspaper warned it would take legal action to overturn the ban, the home ministry backed down and said it could continue publishing as long as it did not use the disputed translation.