RAINWATER and floodwaters cause and may increase the incidence of potentially fatal diseases such as dengue. Floodwaters are contaminated and dirty, and can cause various infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid, hepatitis A and leptospirosis.
Direct contact with contaminated floodwater can cause infections of wounds, skin, eyes, ear, nose and throat, said the director-general of health in a statement recently.
The threat of water-borne diseases is a big concern, with more than 10,000 people displaced from their homes in Penang and Kedah because of the floods.
Floods directly lead to an increase in vector-borne diseases through the expansion in the number and range of vector habitats.
Standing water, caused by heavy rainfall or river overflow, can act as breeding sites for mosquitoes, especially the aedes aegypti, which spread the disease. Flooding may flush out the mosquitoes, but they come back when the water recedes.
Southeast Asia has the highest prevalence of dengue cases, affecting 3.9 million people annually. 500,000 are hospitalised annually, with a 2.5 per cent fatality rate. Children are generally more susceptible to the disease than adults.
While recent national statistics suggest that overall dengue cases have fallen in comparison with last year, the impact of dengue and its potentially devastating consequences remain a persistent threat across Malaysia.
The latest research has shed new light on the nation’s perception of dengue, revealing it to be the number one concern among common infectious diseases, with 80 per cent of Malaysians worrying about the disease. From Jan 1 to Nov 9, there were a total of 76,497 reported dengue cases with 162 deaths nationwide. In Penang, the number of dengue cases has decreased to 2,227, with 11 deaths.
We, from the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Allied Against Dengue (AAD) team, wish to inform the public to be more alert to the symptoms of dengue.
Dengue fever usually occurs four to seven days after the incubation period. For those affected by the floods, if you have a high fever with any two of these symptoms — diarrhoea, pain behind the eyes, vomiting and abdominal pain, rash, muscle and joint pain or bleeding nose and gums — qplease seek advice from your doctor or community pharmacist.
In the case of suspected dengue fever, one can only take paracetamol (recommended by WHO) to keep the fever down. Please do not seek antibiotics at clinics or pharmacists. Taking antibiotics, painkillers, steroids or aspirin may increase the risk of bleeding and lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever.
There is no cure for dengue. What we do is manage and treat the symptoms with lots of fluids and rest.
There are three phases in dengue fever: the febrile, feverish phase, the critical phase when symptoms get worse but with no fever, followed by the recovery phase. The warning signs of dengue are severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, bleeding of nose and gums and difficulty in breathing, which happens due to internal bleeding (reduced blood volume means less oxygen supply to the lungs).
Symptoms include drowsiness, confusion and seizures (due to low blood volume and bleeding), pallid appearance, cold and clammy hands or feet.
Please maintain good personal hygiene, wear long clothing to prevent mosquito bites, and use mosquito repellent.
Community pharmacists are easily accessible to the public. Please seek free advice and screening from our pharmacists if you or any member of your family suspect that you have dengue.
Bharati Suresh Chand
Vice president Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, Chairman/Trainer, Allied against Dengue