The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization issued a warning July 13 that Cambodia’s severe dengue outbreak, which has killed 182 people, mostly children, in the first six months of this year, will further escalate unless “concerted community action” is taken to fight it.
In order to combat the quickly spreading dengue virus, which will reach its annual peak at the end of July, individual efforts must be escalated nationwide, the ministry and WHO said in a joint statement.
“Household jars containing stagnant water, discarded tires and small pots constitute potential breeding sites and a dengue risk that only households and the community itself can commit to eliminate,” the statement said, adding that such containers should be cleaned every 10 days to interrupt mosquito breeding.
Government figures show 14,986 reported cases of dengue fever so far this year and dengue outbreaks, which used to occur in cycles of every three to five years, appear to be happening every year, according to the Health Ministry and the WHO.
“This year is particularly severe and if present trends continue it will be the most serious to date,” the statement said, adding that there is no vaccine for dengue.
Michael O’Leary, WHO country representative for Cambodia, said that anti-dengue programs have been put in place throughout the country, such as school-based campaigns to raise awareness of the need for community action in the fight against dengue fever.
“This has been a big year for dengue regionally as well,” he said.
Annual anti-mosquito breeding campaigns are conducted annually in high-risk areas by the Health Ministry. However, the statement noted that “[t]he spraying of insecticides is expensive and cannot be undertaken on a sufficiently large scale to prevent ongoing transmission on a countrywide scale.”
Ngan Chantha, director of the Ministry of Health’s dengue control program, said that his office is working hard to spread the word on dengue prevention through television, radio and newspaper campaigns, but the results are at times disappointing.
“It’s very hard to change people’s behavior,” he said.
“We go to their houses and there are still a lot of breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”