Concerns Rise Over Spike in Dengue Cases

Health authorities were expecting a dengue epidemic this year and, so far, data are proving them right.

The number of cases have jumped 75 percent during the first five months of the year, compared with the same period last year. By the end of May, 2,942 patients had been diagnosed with the viral disease, compared with 1,674 for the same period in 2002, said Ngan Chantha, national dengue program manager at the National Malaria Center.

In the areas surrounding Siem Reap province, which were among the most affected regions during the 2001 epidemic, the number of children hospitalized due to dengue more than doubled last month at Angkor Hospital for Children and at Jayavarman VII Children’s Hospital.

With the rainy months of July and August—the worst time of the year for dengue—still to come, “we are very concerned,” said Dr Beat Richner, director of Jayavarman VII.

Jayavarman VII hospitalized 568 dengue cases last month compared with 279 in June of last year, he said. In June 2002, the pri­vately run Angkor Hospital had hospitalized 55 cases; this June, the 30-bed facility admitted 91 dengue patients, said Ngoun Chan­pheaktra, a pediatrician in charge of dengue fever cases.

The onslaught of patients has caused a blood shortage at the hospital, he said. Blood supplies come from parents, the hospital staff and from tourists, he said.

But the effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome on the tourism industry has kept visitors away for months, and the hospital has had difficulty getting enough blood for its needs. Patients with dengue hemorrhagic fever re­quire blood transfusions.

The outbreaks of dengue, for which there is no vaccine or specific cure, tend to occur in areas that were not included in the government’s campaign in late May to distribute larvicide Abate tab­lets, said Ngan Chantha.

One way to combat the disease is to prevent mosquitoes from transmitting it from one person to the next by killing their larvae in still water. The campaign reached about 3.8 million people in urban areas of 15 provinces, Ngan Chan­tha said.

Cambodia received $150,000 from the World Health Organiza­tion for this year’s campaign be­cause the five-year $900,000 fund pledged by the World Bank for dengue has not arrived, he said.

“We would like to distribute Abate in more localities and do health education,” but there is no money to do so, Ngan Chantha said.

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