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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dengue death tally skewed by CHIKV

Dengue death tally skewed by CHIKV

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A health official examines a man with a new strain of dengue fever in Takeo province last week. Photograph: Supplied

An old virus that shares similar symptoms to dengue fever had resurfaced in Cambodia in recent months and was a leading factor in this year’s sharp spike in deaths attributed to dengue, health officials said yesterday.

Last seen in Cambodia in the early 1990s, the Chikungunya, or CHIKV, virus had re-emerged in Cambodia over the past six to nine months, World Health Organization epidemiologist Steven Bjorge said.

“It’s been moving through India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thai­land; now it appears it has reached Cambodia,” he said.

Although a completely different virus, it is often confused with dengue, as the symptoms are similar and the species of the mosquito is the same, he said.

However, dengue symptoms tended to be more severe, with people potentially dying from them, unlike CHIKV.

“The problem is that with those viruses, there is no drug to stop the symptoms, likewise there is no vaccine. The only thing we have left is to protect … against mosquitoes,” he said.

Aedes mosquitoes, which transmit the viruses, tended to breed in man-made containers, he said, adding that putting larvacide or guppy fish in pools of water and cleaning up small piles of trash would be a good way of guarding against them.

Char Meng Chuor, director of the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control, said the similarity of the viruses and the rise in CHIKIV cases had partly contributed to a threefold increase in dengue numbers.

There were 2,579 cases, with 14 deaths, more than the first 18 weeks of the year – an increase of 353 per cent if compared to the same period last year.

Other reasons for the increase in reported dengue cases included more rainfall and this year being the climax of a five-year cycle that tends to see more deaths, he added.

Health officials have distributed 90 tonnes of Abate, a chemical used to kill larvae, and will distribute 180 tonnes during the rainy season.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sen David and Cassandra Yeap at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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