Malaysia's health minister says the doubling of dengue fever cases could hit the country's economy with 4,221 cases and 12 deaths in the first three weeks of the year, reports said Sunday.
Liow Tong Lai told the Star daily there were only 2,223 people infected by the mosquito-borne virus and five deaths for the same period last year.
"The increase is worrying. The high number of cases can affect productivity, the tourism industry and, ultimately, our economy," he told the paper.
"I hope everyone will cooperate with us to get the situation under control," he added.
Liow said many of the cases occurred in the capital Kuala Lumpur, which recorded 409 cases and two deaths in the first three weeks of the year compared to 270 cases for the same period last year.
Officials said the high number of cases was attributed to an increase in mosquito breeding grounds such as abandoned housing projects and even occupied homes.
"It is also occurring more in adults than in children," the health ministry's top official Ismail Merican told the paper, saying the public also had to chip in to eradicate mosquito breeding grounds as spraying pesticides, known as fogging, would not solve the problem entirely.
"We are just fighting the mosquitoes and still losing the bigger war. People think if they inform the ministry and fogging is done, they can sleep easy. But fogging will only kill adult mosquitoes. The larvae is still there," he said.
Dengue fever is endemic in Southeast Asia with Malaysia seeing cases surge since 2003.
Last year there were 49,335 cases in Malaysia with 112 deaths, compared to 48,846 cases with 98 deaths the previous year.