More than 1,000 cases of dengue fever have been reported so far this year, a number similar to that reported over the same period last year, said Leang Rithea, the dengue control programme manager at the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control.

Rithea said most of the cases were reported in the capital, Kandal, Kampong Speu and Siem Reap provinces but that the situation this year is “controllable”.

“If people show symptoms such as high fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, stomach ache or vomiting and, for some cases, red spots appear on the skin or bleeding, please go to the hospital immediately and avoid using medicine [not prescribed by doctors] to lower body temperature,” he said.

Rithea called on people to join in combating dengue fever by getting rid of mosquito larvae’s habitat around their homes and public places and to protect oneself from mosquitoes.

According to a report released by Huy Rekol, head of the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control, during the centre’s conference on its 2018 Results and 2019 Goals on Thursday, 23 out of every 1,000 dengue fever-infected patients died nationwide last year. There were a total of 24,684 dengue fever cases.

“The dengue fever density rate [in 2018] declined more than expected – it was lower than an estimate of 263 deaths, or 0.2 per cent, for 2018,” read the report.

The decline was attributed to concerted efforts between the ministry and relevant institutions in responding to the breakout and preventing the spread of disease or transmission agents that caused dengue fever.

‘Ahead of our target’

The Ministry of Health has provided 250 tonnes of Abate larvicide and 3,000 litres of insect spray to health agents to be distributed to local people who are vulnerable to dengue fever, including those in Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Chhnang, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, Kratie, Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham, Oddar Meanchey and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

The ministry has also launched an education campaign in the capital and 17 provinces by engaging people in the prevention of dengue fever.

The campaign has reached out to more than 700,000 people in 765 villages; more than 15,000 students at 64 schools; 18 villages where deaths from dengue fever were reported; and 183 monks at 56 targeted pagodas.

Besides dengue fever, the report said there were 65,114 cases of malaria last year, an increase of 41.6 per cent compared to 2017 which had only 45,991 cases.

However, the increase was only for minor cases of malaria, or P-Vivax, while severe cases of malaria, or P-Falciparum, saw a significant decline to only 27.6 per cent.

“Our pride at the moment is that no one died of malaria in 2018, while in 2017 only one person died. In this sense, we can say we are three years ahead of our target of zero death by 2020,” he said.

Rekol said malaria cases tend to increase significantly in June and July. During this period last year, 78 per cent of malaria cases were found in seven among 21 capital and provinces where malaria broke out – Pursat, Kampong Speu, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, Kratie and Ratanakkiri provinces.

Despite the good progress, Rekol said the goal of reaching zero death by 2025 remains a challenge as people living in remote areas, particularly migrants who seek work in the city or neighbouring countries, fail to protect themselves or follow health officials’ guidelines while the number of mobile medical staff is limited.

Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng recently urged health officials to offer check-ups for migrants and people living in remote areas in order to find potential malaria areas and provide the people with insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent an outbreak.

“I encourage people to soak their mosquito nets with insecticide to prevent dengue and malaria, especially people living in the forest,” he said.

However, Prime Minister Hun Sen recently said some people who have received such mosquito nets from the Ministry of Health have not used them properly, if at all.

He urged the ministry and partner organisations including the World Health Organisation and the US’ Naval Medical Research Unit-2 (NAMRU2) to put more efforts in eliminating malaria from Cambodia by 2025.

“People should not keep their mosquito nets without using them. We need to help prevent an outbreak,” he said.