A boy sits on scales while receiving a checkup at Angkor Children’s Hospital in Siem Reap province last November at the tail end of a dengue fever epidemic in which nearly 40,000 Cambodian’s contracted the illness.
The number of dengue fever cases has plummeted in the first four months of this year, compared to the same period in 2007, said health officials who warned, however, that fewer people were taking precautions against the disease and the country could still face an epidemic with the approaching wet season.
Some 427 people had contracted the mosquito-borne illness by the end of April, resulting in eight deaths, said Dr Nga Chantha, head of Cambodia’s dengue program at the National Malaria Center.
That is far fewer than the more than 2,000 people who had fallen ill by this time last year, he told the Post on April 29.
Nearly 40,000 people contracted dengue and hundreds of people – mostly young children – died of the disease during 2007 in one of the worst outbreaks in decades.
To prevent a repeat of last year’s epidemic, Chantha urged better cooperation between the public and health officials conducting education campaigns about the disease, which is marked by high fevers and crippling headaches or joint pain.
In its worst, often fatal form, dengue hemorrhagic fever the disease destroys the blood vessels, causing its victims to bleed profusely and go into shock.
People have been asked to keep their living areas free of standing water, in which mosquitoes breed, as well as received handouts of the insecticide Abate, 200 hundred tons of which are distributed each year, according to Chantha.
“But some people want the experts to carry out the preventative work for them. They do not seem to be taking dengue fever very seriously,” he said.
“Our experts go and try to give people advice but they have not followed through … dengue is neglected here, but in the region, Cambodia has one of the highest risks for this disease,” he added.
Dengue is the most common mosquito-borne viral disease of humans that in recent years has become a major international health concern, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Worldwide, 2.5 billion people live in areas where dengue viruses can be transmitted, leading to the global resurgence of epidemic dengue fever and emergence of dengue hemorrhagic fever in the past 25 years, the WHO said on its website.