Dengue on Rise; Experts Doubt Epidemic

The onset of early rains have some health-care personnel predicting an increase in dengue fever this year, though they don’t expect the number of cases to reach the epidemic levels of two years ago.

“I am not concerned by the numbers,” said Dr Beat Richner, founder of Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha hospitals where 18 new cases of dengue from the city and surrounding provinces have been treated during the last 10 days.

Though he said he has seen a higher than normal number of dengue cases during the first month of the rainy season, Richner said the caseload pales in comparison to the nearly 500 dengue patients he saw by mid-year in 1998. Several thousand people came down with the fever during an epidemic that year, resulting in hundreds of deaths.

Dengue fever generally peaks during the rainy season when the near-constant dampness provides better breeding conditions for the mosquitoes that carry the illness.

Director of Municipal Health Veng Thai said Phnom Penh residents should begin now taking precautions against the illness, advising that people use mosquito nets at night and take their children to a doctor at the smallest indication of a fever.

Veng Thai said no dengue deaths have been reported this year, but generally 4 percent of the roughly 1,000 who become sick each year die. Encouraging people to keep their living areas free of standing water that may breed mosquitoes has lowered the number of child deaths from dengue, he said.

The Ministry of Health has also distributed the larvacide Abate to villagers in and around Phnom Penh, Veng Thai said, as well as sprayed insecticide into cesspools along local roads.



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