This year’s dengue fever epidemic is continuing, with 59 deaths nationwide through the end of July, Dr Chang Moh Seng of the World Health Organization said Monday.
In the first seven months of the year 5,207 people contracted the mosquito-borne disease—594 in Phnom Penh, he said. The peak month so far was June, with 1,603 cases, followed by July, with 1,343.
But that doesn’t mean the epidemic has peaked and will now decline, the physician said. Its direction is unpredictable because of the delayed rainy season, which has left some areas still dry—vulnerable to dengue as soon as rains come.
“The picture could get worse if more rains come,” he said. “I predict cases will continue through August. We will have to be on the lookout.”
The most cases so far have been in Kandal, Siem Reap and Kompong Cham provinces, which have large populations.
The highest rates of incidence, on the other hand, have been in remote, rural provinces that have not previously experienced epidemics, with Stung Treng and Banteay Meanchey leading, Chang Moh Seng said.
“Since 1998, we have noticed [dengue] spreading to more remote areas, [whereas] it used to be mostly in urban or densely populated areas,” he said.
Dengue is striking worldwide in 2002, he noted. “Everywhere in the tropical world there is an outbreak of dengue—our neighboring countries, South America, Asia.”
WHO officials on Sunday finished their second and last 2002 distribution of the insecticide Abate for water jars in selected areas to kill mosquito eggs and larvae. Officials credit last year’s first-ever Abate distributions with lowering the rates of infection and death but also blamed the insecticide for interrupting the normal three-year epidemic cycle. Last year’s epidemic infected 10,264 people and killed 185.