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Officials issue dengue alert

A woman sleeps under a mosquito net in Srah Chak commune, in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district, in December last year.

Officials from the National Dengue Control Programme have called on provincial health officials to be on alert for outbreaks of dengue fever following a recent spike in the number of recorded cases.

In an email sent earlier this week, NDCP director Ngan Chantha instructed provincial officials to be prepared to treat the mosquito-borne illness as the Kingdom heads into the rainy season, during which dengue cases are most common.

Ngan Chantha said yesterday that there had been an increase in the number of deaths from dengue fever this year because parents had not sent infected children to hospitals quickly enough.

“According to our data, the current dengue fever situation is alarming,” he said.

There have been 845 reported cases of dengue fever nationwide so far this year, resulting in eight deaths, compared with 731 cases resulting in four deaths over the same period last year, Ngan Chantha said.

“Phnom Penh, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Kandal, Kampong Speu and Prey Veng provinces have recorded the most cases of dengue fever recently,” he said.

Steven Bjorge, director of malaria, vector-borne and parasitic diseases at the World Health Organisation, said yesterday that it was too early to say whether dengue would reach outbreak levels this year.

“There are a few provinces that have had more cases in the last week,” he said.

“The National [Dengue] Programme is alerting people to be aware that if precautions aren’t taken immediately, this could escalate.”

The warning of provincial health officials about possible dengue outbreaks is standard practice at the outset of the rainy season, said Char Ment Chuor, director of the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control at the Ministry of Health.

“At the beginning of the season, we need to warn them to be careful,” he said. “We warn the provincial departments to take action early to avoid the outbreaks.”

The current rate of dengue infection is “normal” for this time of year, Char Ment Chuor said.

Pik Kimsan, deputy director of the Kampong Thom provincial health department, said yesterday that he had not yet received the NDCP message, but that the dengue situation in the province was stable.

“So far this year, 140 people have had dengue fever [in Kampong Thom], two of whom have died, compared with 100 cases resulting in two deaths over the same period last year,” he said.

While the NDCP is keeping provincial departments on alert, a lack of consistent funding is hampering efforts to control dengue, Bjorge said.

“If the [National] Dengue Programme … could count on a regular source of funding early in the year, they could make better plans for the control of dengue in this country,” he said. “My experience is that no country takes dengue seriously until they’ve got cases in the hospitals.”



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