Villages in a remote, mountainous part of Kompong Speu province are suffering from a severe malaria outbreak, according to National Malaria Center adviser Dr Seshu Babu.
As many as three deaths in the last month can be attributed to malaria, he said. Tests in four villages in Chreau commune in Oral district showed that more than half of 155 villagers tested positive for p falciparum malaria.
“We’ve got a serious problem,” Babu said.
After hearing that the area might have a malaria epidemic, a team of five doctors from the National Malaria Center and the Pasteur Institute visited Chreau commune on April 5 and April 6. Another doctor went to the province this week to gather more information.
A number of follow-up visits to the area by National Malaria Center and provincial health staff are planned.
The National Malaria Center is considering spraying homes and cattle sheds with insecticide.
Vietnam’s malaria program uses both distribution of chemically treated bed nets and spraying to fight the spread of the disease.
Spraying is a measure not usually taken in Cambodia.
“Since this is an epidemic, an exception could be made,” Babu said.
Bed nets were handed out to villagers about six months ago, but the team of doctors that visited earlier this month found that some nets had tears and holes, and many had been regularly washed, which reduces their effectiveness, since it rids the nets of anti-mosquito chemicals.
Babu said nets would be treated again and villagers would be advised to stay under nets during the early evening.
Interviews with villagers revealed that most of them were not going to bed until 9 pm. Even though mosquitoes tend to be most active just after sunset, people have been spending that time tending to their cattle, fetching water from mountain streams, cooking, smoking and playing outdoor games.
“It’s the 6 to 9 pm [activity] that is causing the havoc,” Babu said.
The villages of Thnal, Tang Hoang, Tang Samrong and Teuk Chenh have recently been repopulated, Babu said. The villages were constantly under siege during the years of the Khmer Rouge insurgency and were abandoned as a result.
Many villagers living there now are former Khmer Rouge members who have moved back in the last two or three years.
New homes have been built and there are now more than 1,000 people living in the four villages, which are near forests along the border with Pursat province.
Many of the people who complained of a malaria-like fever earlier this month told the team of doctors that they have already spent a great deal of money on care from private doctors.