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Malaria, dengue death toll prompts community action

120919_05

A man suffering from dengue fever is treated by a health professional in Takeo province. Photograph supplied

In a year of epidemic dengue levels and proliferating strains of drug-resistant malaria, health organisations are increasingly turning to grassroots methods to deal with mosquito-borne diseases.

Community pilot programs have successfully educated schoolchildren and their parents about preventing the spread of dengue and have linked villagers in Pailin province into a national malaria monitoring network via text messaging, Ministry of Health and World Health Organization representatives said yesterday.

“Prevention of dengue is the duty of the community,” Dr Ngan Chantha, director of the Ministry of Health’s national dengue control program, said after the first half of a two-day workshop on dengue prevention.

Chantha’s Ministry of Health colleague Chea Monthavy reported that communities that had participated in a pilot education program in Kampong Cham province were significantly more likely to mention their own role in preventing the disease.  

In response to the question, “Can you tell us what you do to get rid of Aedes mosquito breeding sites?” 69 per cent of respondents before the education program mentioned government delivery of the insecticide Abate, while less than half mentioned independent actions that families could take, such as cleaning or covering household water containers.

After the program, respondents were less likely to mention Abate, while almost all mentioned cleaning water jars or filling them with larvae-eating fish.

As of September 4, Cambodia has seen 32,314 reported dengue cases so far this year and 134 deaths attributed to dengue fever.

The WHO and government have also encouraged the community’s role in reporting and monitoring drug-resistant malaria in Pailin, WHO communications and media relations director Sonny Krishnan said.

The Pailin program uses village-level malaria workers to diagnose cases that villagers’ then report to a national monitoring system, allowing the government to track the incidence of the disease and its drug-resistant forms.  

If malaria continues for more than three days after standard treatment, malaria workers prescribe the more expensive drug Malarone, which is effective against drug resistant strains, Krishnan said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Justine Drennan at justine.drennan@phnompenhpost.com

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