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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Mar. 12) - A new strain of the dengue virus in Malaysia has brought about a drastic increase in the disease, with 11 deaths so far this year.

Health minister Chua Jui Meng says the new DEN3 virus has affected a lot of people, as most Malaysians do not have the antibody to the strain.

He says Malaysia is among 100 countries in the Asia Pacific region that have a dengue virus problem.

The health minister has blamed the outbreak on an increase in public apathy in ensuring clean surroundings and an exceptionally heavy rainy season.

Malaysia recorded 11,394 dengue and hemorrhagic dengue cases last year, with a total of 57 deaths.

Chua says there have been 3,410 dengue cases this year.

March 13, 2003

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