Health Officials Don’t Anticipate Large Dengue Outbreak

In the wake of a vicious outbreak of dengue fever in Indo­nesia that has claimed more than 200 lives, Cambodian health officials say they are cautiously watching for signs of the disease, but have no reason to anticipate such an outbreak here.

“We are very concerned,” said Dr Chang Mohseng, WHO adviser on dengue vector control. “If this can happen in Indonesia, it can happen anywhere.”

More than 13,000 people have become infected with dengue fever in Indonesia since mid-January, the Chinese Xinhua news service reported Tuesday. The outbreak has killed 247 people in 30 provinces, with the capital city Jakarta most seriously affected, a health official told Xinhua.

Having observed the crisis there, Cambodia has moved to guard against the mosquito-bourne illness, which proliferates during the rainy season from May to September.

“We have [taken] pre-emptive measures, so I don’t think we will have that problem,” said Sok Touch, director of the Communi­cable Disease Depart­ment at the Ministry of Health.

The WHO plans to visit 38 high-risk districts in 15 provinces before the rainy season to distribute Abate, a granular water-treatment insecticide used to prevent mosquito larvae breeding in water containers, Chang Mohseng said.

The chemical was also distributed last year in anticipation of widespread dengue. The total number of cases in 2003 dropped from the previous year, he said.

In mid-March, the WHO is hosting a meeting for all NGOs that work on dengue prevention to prepare for the coming rainy season, he said.

A committee will also be visiting provincial health centers to offer a refresher course on dengue treatment, Sok Touch said. They will also conduct an education campaign in the provin­ces on avoiding mosquito proliferation.

Improving sanitation is essential for dengue prevention, Dr Ngan Chantha, director of the National Dengue Control Program, said earlier this month.

In areas where clean water is in short supply, people often store water in reservoir containers, creating breeding grounds for disease-bearing mosquitoes, he said.

“In Phnom Penh, the provinces, sanitation is very, very bad,” he said. “People want to earn money, and they forget to take care of their health, to take care of their children.”

He encouraged people who may be suffering from dengue to visit public health centers, which, he said, are less expensive than private centers and are trained to provide appropriate care.

At Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh, Dr Jean-Baptiste Dufourcq said he was not particularly concerned about a dengue outbreak this year.

Most dengue patients the hospital sees are children and expatriates, he said.

“It’s very rare to have adults here with dengue,” he said.

 

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