Dengue fever infections have increased more than 200 percent in the first half of the year, with more than 15,000 people falling ill and 60 children dying of the disease so far, according to figures from the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control.
The Ministry of Health attributed this year’s increase in dengue cases to a five-year cycle, which sees infections spike among a non-immune population, which is normally children born after the last major outbreak. The last dengue epidemic took place in Cambodia in 2007.
During the first 27 weeks of last year, there were 4,604 cases of dengue infections reported and 23 deaths. The ministry also said that early rainfall this year, an increased number of mosquito larvae, and more parents bringing their children to hospitals for treatment were also factors contributing to the increase in reported cases. Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Siem Reap and Kompong Speu have been the hardest hit provinces.
Due to better prevention methods and awareness of the disease throughout the country, Char Meng Chour, director of the national center, said it is unlikely that the number of deaths this year would reach the same heights as in 2007, when more than 40,000 cases were reported and 407 people died.
“The ministry has helped with providing [mosquito larvicide] Abate and education, and people have to be responsible for [the health of] their children,” Dr. Meng Chour said.
Pieter van Maaren, country representative of the World Health Organization, said the increase in deaths is a cause for concern, but he cautioned against sounding the alarm that this year might reach the levels of 2007. “Definitely, we expect the number of cases to go up in the rainy season, but whether it would be numbers equal to the magnitude of 2007, we cannot say,” he said.
He added that the spike could also be attributed to a concurrent outbreak of chikungunya, another mosquito-borne illness with almost identical symptoms to dengue.
“For the clinician, it is not so difficult to distinguish, but for the layman it might not be so easy. So it is a possibility that the matter is complicated by the chikungunya case,” Dr. van Maaren said.