A worse disease to treat than Covid-19
By Contributor |   |  Featured, Opinion

By Dr Arvinder-Singh HS

WE are living in uncertain times. We are combatting an infectious disease in Covid-19, which threatened to wipe out the human population at one time, and in Malaysia – just as we thought we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel – our long-lost foe, dengue, has emerged bringing another accomplice in chikungunya.

In a twitter post during the first movement control order, I had warned that we must combat Covid-19 whole-heartedly, but we should not forget about dengue as we saw a mild peak in cases during that time.

It was honestly expected – by me at least. Why? When people stay at home, they tend to consume more, and rubbish tends to pile especially where high-density housing is concerned. This adds to the risks of rain and water stagnation, which is the perfect environment for dengue mosquitoes to breed. Let us also not forget that many abandoned construction sites were also partly to be blamed as they tend to hold water with containers lying around the site.

Nevertheless, here we are, combatting another infectious disease after one wave of the other was just subsiding. Even bigger worry – the latest results of the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2020 that shows our rising numbers in non-communicable diseases in Malaysia especially in diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, all which are predisposing factors to permanent disability and conditions like end-stage renal failure and stroke.

As a medical professional who has been advising the society on numerous occasions, I feel very responsible. But I must share this syndrome which has become prevalent in our society, for both non-communicable and communicable diseases. It is the “tidak-apa syndrome”. Sadly, we did not learn it in medical school and neither is there a known cure for it.

Malaysians have to wake up and smell the humous/coffee/cow-dung/stench of our attitude towards healthcare. We have been blessed with choices – a good healthcare system (one of the best in the world, may I add), alongside a very good parallel system of the private and government sectors, leaving the people spoilt with options for healthcare support (of course this also depends on the depth of your pockets).

We have a system that has provided us with the yearly Perkeso screening. Not enough? The tax system offers us RM500 rebate in our taxes for health-related screenings.

How many of us have opted to take up these options? Many of us don’t. Why? That dreaded disease of the “tidak-apa syndrome”.

Wake up, Malaysians, the statistics don’t lie. Please stop the “This is another propaganda by medical companies to make money” or “There are better traditional medicinal cures”. We both know deep down what the actual fact of reality is. There are people in this world, begging and hoping that they could be blessed with a healthcare system like ours, but here, we do nothing to appreciate it despite the numerous attempts to get the general public to screen themselves.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you had a general health screening? When you have a fever, do you take it seriously after two days? Sometimes, we are all guilty of the “tidak-apa syndrome”.

Unfortunately, times have dealt us not only the non-communicable diseases but also now to combat the communicable diseases. Communicable diseases are serious and the “tidak-apa syndrome” will cost us. “Aiyah, just wash hands only, no need to do again lah” despite handling garbage bins/bags.

Do you still take social distancing, hand-washing, hand hygiene, disinfecting materials, masking yourselves, sneezing practices, the practice of SOPs and adhering to the new recommended and more stringent norms seriously? Are we out of the woods? We haven’t, guys! Do not awake the sleeping lion!

The truth is, for both the non-communicable and communicable diseases, Malaysians have become the real frontliners now. If you don’t screen for non-communicable diseases like diabetes or hypertension, we won’t know that you have it and we cannot help you medically. If you don’t come to us with a fever, we won’t know if you are infected with Covid-19 or dengue or chikungunya. If you don’t come to us for medical advice on your perhaps early mental health disorders, we cannot assess and refer you early so that you do not progress to severe stages.

Wake up, Malaysians! Help us help you. This “tidak apa syndrome” is honestly a worse disease to treat than Covid-19. Only you have the anecdote – a change of attitude towards your health is a good tonic! – June 24, 2020

Dr Arvinder-Singh HS is a medical officer with a Certificate in Occupational Health, Masters in Health Research, Diploma in Football Medicine and is currently pursuing a PhD in Community Health focusing on adolescent athletes’ health.

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