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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Officials warn of widespread dengue in '09

Officials warn of widespread dengue in '09

HEALTH officials have warned of a possible outbreak of dengue fever next year as the number of children seeking treatment continues into the disease's "low" season.  

"Every day, the hospital still receives more than 20 children with dengue fever," said Lam Eng Hour, deputy director of Phnom Penh's Kantha Bopha children's hospital. "We are worried this is a sign that the number [of infections] will be higher next year."

According to Lam Eng Hour, Kantha Bopha hospitals in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have received 5,552 dengue cases so far this year, of which 43 have been fatal. He said that, despite being a dramatic decrease from last year's 23,000 cases, children lining up for dengue treatment this late in the year is a bad sign for 2009.

"An outbreak can happen every two years," Lam Eng Hour said.

National statistics from January to November this year showed that throughout the country 8,783 cases have been recorded by national and Kantha Bopha hospitals, Ngan Chantha, the national dengue control program director at the Ministry of Health, told the Post Tuesday.

He added that the number of cases had risen to over 35,000 by this time last year, with 61 fatalities, and had reached nearly 40,000 by the end of the year.

"It is disconcerting if children still come for treatment at this time, but this year the number is very small compared to the last year," Ngan Chantha said.

Siem Reap still leads the country in infection cases with 1,733, followed by Phnom Penh with 1,620, Kampong Cham with 1,081 and Kandal with 1,020.

"These four provinces are leading the [number of dengue cases] every year due to their crowded populations," said Ngan Chantha, adding that half-built buildings and open sewers lead to higher numbers of the dengue mosquito.

Lam Eng Hour said that many parents were still unaware that they need to bring their children to the hospital immediately when they develop a high fever.

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