A Malaysian university lecturer has succumbed to dengue fever, bringing the death toll to 72, health officials said Friday as they urged the public to be more vigilant in battling the mosquitos carrying the deadly virus.
Unvar Rahman Abdul Muthalib, a 46-year-old associate professor at the International Islamic University, died Wednesday at a Kuala Lumpur hospital after suffering from high fever for two weeks, said Ramlee Rahmat, director of the Health Ministry's Vector Disease Division.
"The death toll is now 72," he told The Associated Press.
"We see an increasing trend. We urge the public to be more committed to help curb the disease by cleaning up their surrounding areas so that mosquitos can't breed."
The division's deputy director, Marzuki Isa, said the government has done its utmost to prevent the outbreak from turning into an epidemic and that the public must cooperate to nip the problem at its root.
"We have done our part in carrying out inspection, fogging and boosting enforcement. It is now up to the public. People must help themselves by constantly checking their surroundings and their houses for mosquito breeding," he said.
The states of Selangor, Perak and Penang _ as well as Malaysia's main city, Kuala Lumpur _ remain dengue hotspots where the highest number of cases have been reported, he added.
The ministry has deployed hundreds of health workers nationwide to spray suspected breeding sites of the Aedes mosquito and ordered tougher enforcement steps, like shutting down building sites and other businesses where small water pools could form and host mosquito larvae.
Dengue cases have surged by 26.5 percent this year, with 27,569 cases reported up to Sept. 24, compared to 21,786 cases in the same period last year in this country of 25 million people. About 750 cases were reported last week alone.
The government has said it will declare an epidemic if cases reach 1,000 a week but expressed confidence that cleanup operations to kill the mosquitos that spread the fever will stem the rise.
Several other Southeast Asian countries have also been reporting higher-than-usual rates of dengue fever, which is endemic in the region.
International health officials warn it is a growing threat worldwide.
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