Malaysian authorities have sounded an alarm over a spike in dengue fever cases, which have doubled in the new year with eight deaths so far, reports said Tuesday.
Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai urged local councils and the public to take action after 3,211 people were infected with the mosquito-borne virus from January 4-17, compared to 1,514 cases and four deaths a year ago.
"We are taking dengue fever cases very seriously because the numbers have doubled compared to the same time last year," the Star newspaper quoted Liow as saying.
"The cooperation that we are getting is not good enough. We need to take immediate action," he said.
Health ministry official Ismail Merican told the paper that the ministry was also receiving reports of unusual symptoms in more severe dengue cases.
"Patients used to suffer from bleeding and low platelet count but now you can get dengue encephalitis that affects the brain, and people can come in with epileptic attacks, jaundice, hepatitis and kidney or liver failure," he said.
"We have informed all our doctors to add dengue testing if a patient has fever and weird symptoms."
Officials said the high number of cases was attributed to an increase in mosquito breeding grounds like abandoned housing projects and even occupied homes.
The illness is endemic in Southeast Asia with Malaysia seeing cases surge since 2003.
Last year there were 49,335 dengue fever cases in Malaysia with 112 deaths, compared to 48,846 cases with 98 deaths the previous year.