A woman (R) holds her two-year-old child, who is suffering from dengue fever, outside the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
The number of dengue fever cases has nearly tripled compared to last year, while deaths have soared almost 160 per cent, Ministry of Health officials reported yesterday.
According to Dr Ngan Chantha, Director of the Dengue Control Program at the Ministry of Health, the number of reported dengue cases this year through August 28 had risen to 30,944, including 124 deaths, all children.
He added that dengue tends to be more fatal for children because “their capillaries are very fragile”, making them less able to fight off the Aedes mosquite-borne disease that can cause severe internal bleeding.
Children are also less likely than adults to have been exposed to and developed immunity against any of the four variations of the disease, according to Dr Steven Bjorge, World Health Organisation team leader for malaria and other vector-borne diseases.
This year’s new statistics reflect a dramatic increase in absolute numbers of deaths, but a decrease in the proportion of cases that resulted in death from this time last year, when the Health Ministry reported 10,975 cases and 48 deaths.
The new numbers are still below those of the “epidemic year” of 2007, which saw 35,784 reported cases and 352 deaths at this point in the year, Chantha said.
Chantha added that this year’s dengue bout is “still not finished”, but he predicted the rate of cases reported would continue to decrease.
“Now it is getting better week by week,” he said, noting that the rate of cases began to decline at the start of July.
The five Kantha Bopha hospitals, among the main sources of public emergency care in the country, saw 20,998 severe dengue cases and 85 deaths by the end of August, with a death rate on par with national figures.
Kuy Sok, director of the Battambang provincial health department, said his province had reported 810 cases of dengue through August and four deaths – almost doubling the same period last year.
“Four hundred and sixty cases are still in the hospital for treatment,” he added.
WHO officials have noted that cited records of dengue cases and deaths only include those reported at public clinics.
Numbers of patients treated at private clinics are not fully reflected in the statistics.