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Foreign groups fund dengue fever prevention efforts for 2009

Last year saw a dramatic drop in deaths caused by dengue, but experts say the provinces remain vulnerable to a potential outbreak

THE Ministry of Health plans to spend $US100,000, donated by a range of international bodies to implement new efforts designed to prevent the spread of dengue fever this year, Ngan Chantha, director of the ministry's anti-dengue program, told the Post Wednesday.

The preventative strategies involve better communication techniques, more rapid responses on the part of doctors to possible outbreaks and increased use of pesticides.

The World Health Organisation, USAID, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank donated the funding for the new efforts.

The government has made recent gains in fighting the disease. In 2008, 65 people in Cambodia died from dengue fever, down from 407 in 2007.

This progress aside, however, Ngan Chantha said the disease is still a threat.

"We are still concerned that cases could increase in 2009," Ngan Chantha said. "So we will continue to educate and broadcast the dengue fever strategies for 2009."

Chang Moh Seng, a dengue fever specialist at the World Health Organisation office in Phnom Penh, said health experts had developed strategies to contain the virus "within three months".

"However, the most difficult aspect of our program is the communication between communities - getting them to adopt dengue preventative strategies such as spraying pesticides into the water and having the ability to identify dengue symptoms," he said.

Ngan Chantha said the new efforts would be implemented with a focus on the provinces, which are particularly vulnerable to potential dengue outbreaks.

Last month, there were 151 cases of dengue fever in Cambodia, though there were no fatalities.

Both Ngan Chantha and Chang Moh Seng said Cambodia is more prepared than most other countries in the region to prevent an outbreak of the disease.

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