KUALA TERENGGANU - Starve a cold, feed a fever. In the case of dengue fever, feed it crab soup.
According to restaurant owner Siti Mastura Ali, her Nipah crab soup has seen a spike in popularity following the dengue outbreak in the state capital.
She said the dish wasn't intended to be a dengue folk remedy but somehow, her customers found they recovered faster after trying the soup.
"I started noticing customers ordering the soup for takeaways.
"And then I found out they were taking it to their family members hospitalised in the (nearby) Hospital Sultanah Nur Zahirah," she said.
The demand for what is now nicknamed "Dengue Soup" has doubled, to the point where the restaurant sometimes cannot cook enough of it.
"Nipah crabs are hard to get, and they need to be wild-caught and bought fresh daily.
"If you freeze them, they rot quickly," she told The Star when met at her Aqua 8 Seafood Restaurant in Kampung Panji Alam, one of the dengue hotspots here.
According to the state health department, Panji Alam is one of the worst-hit dengue outbreak areas, with two of the three deaths in the state coming from the village.
Alternative medicine practitioner Norhayati Ismail, 36, said she preferred not to send her children to clinics and had even treated her nine-year-old with homeopathic medicine when she contracted dengue last week.
She said her daughter's condition improved within two days after she was fed a compound made of papaya leaves, spirulina and crab soup.
"If she had not recovered, of course I would have taken her to hospital," the mother said when met at her Rumah Sihat, also located in the village.
Norhayati said not many neighbours had sought alternative treatment from her, with most heading straight to the hospital after the locality was declared an outbreak area.
Asked about the effectiveness of alternative medicine, state health department director Dr Mohammad Omar called it a form of supplements, not a substitute to getting proper treatment.
"Yes, there have been studies that suggest things like papaya leaves can help but it's a minor thing. If you're sick, just go to hospital," he advised.