Incidence and epidemiological features of dengue in Sabah, Malaysia

Amanda Murphy, Giri Shan Rajahram, Jenarun Jilip, Marilyn Maluda, Timothy William, Wenbiao Hu, Simon Reid, Gregor J. Devine, Francesca D. Frentiu

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In South East Asia, dengue epidemics have increased in size and geographical distribution in recent years. We examined the spatiotemporal distribution and epidemiological characteristics of reported dengue cases in the predominantly rural state of Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo–an area where sylvatic and urban circulation of pathogens are known to intersect. Using a public health data set of routinely notified dengue cases in Sabah between 2010 and 2016, we described demographic and entomological risk factors, both before and after a 2014 change in the clinical case definition for the disease. Annual dengue incidence rates were spatially variable over the 7-year study period from 2010–2016 (state-wide mean annual incidence of 21 cases/100,000 people; range 5-42/100,000), but were highest in rural localities in the western districts of the state (Kuala Penyu, Nabawan, Tenom and Kota Marudu). Eastern districts exhibited lower overall dengue rates, although a high proportion of severe (haemorrhagic) dengue cases (44%) were focused in Sandakan and Tawau. Den-gue incidence was highest for those aged between 10 and 29 years (24/100,000), and was slightly higher for males compared to females. Available vector surveillance data indicated that during large outbreaks in 2015 and 2016 the mosquito Aedes albopictus was more prev-alent in both urban and rural households (House Index of 64%) than Ae. aegypti (15%). Demographic patterns remained unchanged both before and after the dengue case definition was changed; however, in the years following the change, reported case numbers increased substantially. Overall, these findings suggest that dengue outbreaks in Sabah are increasing in both urban and rural settings. Future studies to better understand the drivers of risk in specific age groups, genders and geographic locations, and to test the potential role of Ae. albopictus in transmission, may help target dengue prevention and control efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0007504
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2020
Externally publishedYes


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