Rousing from a dengue-induced stupor, 5-year-old Keun Sophearin let out a small cry and kicked at his mother as she tried to wipe down his legs with a cool towel.
His last bit of energy spent, the boy resumed his stationary pose, lying flat on a bed in the front room of Ward I in Phnom Penh’s National Pediatric Hospital on Tuesday.
The boy’s mother, Am Leap, 39, said she was just trying to help reduce his fever, but hasn’t had much luck with that in recent days.
She said she did everything she could to protect her five children from dengue-carrying mosquitoes around their home in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district. Emptying spray cans full of pesticide and burning mosquito coils proved futile in warding off the virus, which has claimed 182 lives in Cambodia so far this year—the vast majority of them children.
“I use abate and still there are many mosquitoes,” she said, referring to the larvacide that neutralizes the mosquitoes breeding places in water.
“I think he got it when he went off to play with the other children,” she said. “It’s a severe case of dengue. I am afraid of losing my son.”
Hospital Director Chhour Y Meng said 50 children have died out of the 2,500 dengue cases his hospital has seen during this year’s dengue surge.
“Those who died came to us in their last hour,” he said, adding that while his hospital has seen patients from 19 provinces, the areas worst off are Phnom Penh and its neighboring provinces—Kandal, Kompong Speu, Kompong Cham, Takeo and Prey Veng.
Across town at Dr Beat Richner’s Kantha Bopha IV Hospital, the mother of another young dengue patient said her preventive efforts also failed to ward of the mosquitoes.
“My way is to use a mosquito net when they sleep during the day,” Srey Keo said, adding that she was not aware of any outside efforts to kill mosquitoes in her village in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district.
“This year, I haven’t seen any insecticide or abate…and there are more mosquitoes,” she said, struggling to keep a grip on her 4-year-old son as he snapped awake in her arms and begins to twist violently.