News: El Nino May Increase Risk Of Dengue, Malaria – Health Minister

Bernama, 23 May 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 (Bernama) — The El Nino phenomenon, expected to hit the country from June to December this year, may increase the risk of vector borne diseases such as dengue and malaria, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam.

He said the climate and temperature changes caused by the phenomenon would influence the vector population and behavior including the virus replication.

“Various studies have shown that the incubation period of the virus reduces in warm temperature as demonstrated in the laboratory experiment which reduced from 12 days at 30 Celsius to 7 days at 32 to 35 Celsius,” he said when addressing the 67th World Health Assembly 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.

His speech text was faxed to Bernama Friday.

The phenomenon is characterised by a band of unusually warm ocean water temperatures that periodically develops off the Pacific coast of South America that could cause extreme weather changes across the Pacific region such as fluctuating droughts, floods and scrappy crop yields in some regions.

Subramaniam said the existence of mosquitoes in new areas had also increased due to global warming and would increase the epidemic potential by 31 to 47 per cent for dengue and 12 to 27 per cent for malaria transmission.

He said although studies linking climate factors with dengue were limited in Malaysia, it was generally accepted that changes in precipitation, ambient temperature and humidity may influence the abundance and distribution of the mosquito vectors.

“Several studies have shown a positive relationship between rainfall and dengue, the timing of rainfall was as important as the amount of rain.

“Warmer temperatures can increase transmission potential by allowing the mosquitoes vector to survive and reach maturity much faster and shorten the virus incubation period,” he said.

He said the government had taken firm steps in mitigation and adaptive measures through multi-agency intervention, which also included strengthening existing programme within the ministry.

It included addressing climate sensitive diseases and health conditions such as vector borne, food and water borne disease, sanitary waste disposal, the provision of clean water with high priority to research and development, he said.

“Malaysia has also prepared a plan of action for drought to face the uncertainties that may arrive due to the El Nino phenomenon,” he said.