As dengue incidence spikes, Health Ministry mulls AI in war on mosquitoes

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad launched an operation to release Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes at the Sri Rakyat apartment in Bukit Jalil, July 7, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad launched an operation to release Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes at the Sri Rakyat apartment in Bukit Jalil, July 7, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 — The Health Ministry is considering the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to help in efforts to combat cases of dengue haemorrhagic fever that almost doubled in the first half of the year.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad disclosed today that 62,421 cases have been reported from January 1 to June 29 this year compared 32,435 cases in the same period last year.

Dzulkefly said his ministry intended to find creative and effective means to control the epidemic.

“We are studying the use of AI to detect and make predictions to any dengue outbreak. We are taking a proactive and pre-emptive stance compared to being reactive. 

“It is one of the methods that we are testing and we are currently conducting a pilot project in Penang,” he said to the press after launching an operation to release Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes at the Sri Rakyat apartment in Bukit Jalil today.

Dzulkefly explained that mosquitoes with Wolbachia are used to displace the Aedes population by replacing female mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus with those bearing the former strain.

According to the minister, Malaysia is the second country after Australia to utilise this method.

He said that the ministry will release Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes in 11 localities in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

“This is one of our proactive methods as well to combat rising dengue cases,’’ he said.

According to statistics, Selangor recorded the highest cases of dengue fever this year, with 35,544 cases up to June 29, compared to 18,249 cases at the same period last year.

The country also recorded 93 dengue-related death up to 29 June this year, compared to 53 deaths in the same period last year.

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