Dengue Toll Climbs as Doctors Fear Worst To Come

Medical workers said Tuesday that June has been the worst month yet in the year’s dire and much-publicized dengue fever outbreak.

Health Ministry figures state that the epidemic has claimed 109 lives in the past six months, but Dr Beat Richner, who runs the Kantha Bo­pha hospitals, said that in his four hospitals alone, 122 have died from the mosquito-borne virus this year.

Ngan Chantha, the ministry’s na­tional dengue program manager, said there have been a total of 7,655 reported cases nationwide of den­gue so far this year and that while he hopes for the best, he fears the worst may be yet to come.

Last year, a total of 156 people died from dengue fever, and though it is still early in the rainy season, already nearly 70 percent of that number have died this year.

The ministry’s figure of 109 re­ported deaths this year amounts to nearly three times as many fatalities for same period in 2002, which was the year of the last severe outbreak, Ngan Chantha said. According to min­istry figures, the January through May period of 2002 saw 1,674 cases and 37 deaths.

“We are more concerned be­cause the peak of dengue is in July and August and we are just up to June,” he added.

Richner, whose Kantha Bopha hospitals in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap see 90 percent of the country’s dengue cases, claims this year’s outbreak is the worst he has seen in 15 years. He said his hospitals receive on average 200 new dengue cases per day and have seen nearly 10,000 serious cases of dengue so far this year. All of the patients Richner’s hospitals have treated have been children, and he said 122 of them have died. “We need an additional $7 million to control the dengue outbreak this year,” he said.

And as rainy season steadily gains momentum, health workers countrywide are reporting a spike in cases of dengue.

World Health Organization vector scientist Chang Moh Seng said that unlike previous dengue outbreaks, which only affected a handful of provinces, there is now den­gue in 23 provinces.

“The geographic distribution is wide…and while the situation in Phnom Penh is slightly under control, the outskirts of the city—like Kandal, Kompong Speu and Kompong Cham—still remain very high,” he said.


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