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Dengue numbers remain sky-high

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A child suffering from Dengue fever is cared for at a hospital in Phnom Penh in 2007. Photograph: Reuters

Dengue continues to stalk the Kingdom at higher numbers than last year, with 30 people killed and more than 7,000 cases reported in the first 23 weeks of the year.

This represents a tripling of deaths and an almost fivefold increase against 2010 numbers for the same period.

World Health Organization epidemiologist Steven Bjorge said Cambodia was experiencing the most severe dengue breakout in the region due to the disease’s natural cycle.

Complicating the dengue resurgence was the surfacing of an old virus – Chikungunya, or CHIKV – which causes symptoms similar to dengue, but is not fatal, Bjorge said, adding that the number of cases was substantially higher than in 2010 and 2011.

National Dengue Control Program director Ngan Chanta estimates about one per cent of the 7,201 cases reported in Cambodia were CHIKV cases.

“Cambodia has been dealing with dengue for decades, but [CHIKV] is new to us,” Chanta said. “We have been telling our health-care people about this virus.”

The only way to curb an epidemic of dengue was to kill the larvae, he pointed out, adding that the control program had already distributed tonnes of larvicide to the provinces.

“We treat all the jars and containers,” Chanta said. The program pushed community-based campaigns to educate people to also treat the small pools of water or garbage piles in or near their households, he said.

The National Dengue Control Program has six sentinel hospitals around the country that monitor the virus and treat patients.

Because of the increasing awareness of dengue, most cases were reported immediately, Chanta said, but changing people’s practices and promoting sanitation was still the most difficult part of fighting the disease.

To contact the reporter on this story: Xiaoqing Pi at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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