KUALA LUMPUR: Wolbachia Mosquito Operations (WMO), an initiative by the Health Ministry to combat dengue transmission which started in 2019, has succeeded in reducing the number of dengue cases between 45 and 100 per cent in 19 assessable release localities.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Lukanisman Awang Sauni said the country has achieved a significant decline in dengue case fatality rate (CFR) from 0.63 per cent in 2000 to 0.08 per cent last year, with rigorous and continuous effort at various levels involving national, state and district stakeholders.

“To date, a total of 35 localities have implemented WMO nationwide,” he said when launching the 7th Asia Dengue Summit (ADS) here today.

He said in addition, the Communication for Behavioural Impact (COMBI) programme has been adopted in 3,380 localities with more than 32,163 active members nationwide to facilitate community mobilisation for dengue prevention activities.

“We look forward to dengue vaccine to curb the disease transmission and will continue to seek more evidence to ensure this vaccine would eventually complement our effort to prevent, manage, and control dengue in accordance to the country’s dengue burden and World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations,” he added.

Lukanisman said that in just two decades, the number of dengue cases worldwide has grown thirteenfold from 500,000 in 2000 to a whopping 6.5 million in 2023.

He said most of the increase is attributed to Malaysia and other Asian countries such as Thailand, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were happy to see a significant drop in dengue cases due to movement restrictions. Unfortunately, the shrinkage was temporary. As the world returned to normalcy, dengue cases went up again.

“Indeed, 2023 marked the highest number of cases ever recorded globally, surpassing the unprecedented peak of 2019. With over 6.5 million cases and more than 7,300 dengue-related deaths reported by the WHO, the urgency of our collective response cannot be disputed,” he said.

With the theme “Towards Zero Dengue Deaths: Innovation, Collaboration, Action in Asia”, the three-day summit starting today gathered over 450 leading dengue experts from 20 countries including clinicians, academia researchers, public health leaders and policymakers to exchange ideas, updates, and achievements on dengue prevention and control.

The summit is co-convened by Asia Dengue Voice and Action (ADVA) Group and Dengue Prevention Advocacy Malaysia (DPAM), among many other public health associations and groups.