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Dengue fever infection high but ‘controllable’, with peak season still to come

A baby being treated for dengue fever is fed at Kantha Bopha Hospital in Phnom Penh in 2013, when the number of cases skyrocketed.
A baby being treated for dengue fever is fed at Kantha Bopha Hospital in Phnom Penh in 2013, after the number of cases skyrocketed. Hong Menea

Dengue fever infection high but ‘controllable’, with peak season still to come

The number of dengue fever cases recorded so far this year in Cambodia continues to outpace the number of infections seen in the same period last year, with the peak season for the mosquito-borne virus still to come.

In the first nine weeks of 2018, the Kingdom already had tallied more than 800 cases of the disease, more than double the nearly 350 cases that were counted in the same period last year, said Dr Leang Rithea, director of the National Dengue Control Program (NDCP).

Officials were heartened, however, to see the infection rate is starting to turn a corner.

The initial six weeks of the year saw roughly 100 new infections per week, while the rate over the past three weeks slowed to 80 to 90 – a significant enough drop for Rithea to deem the dengue situation “controllable”.

Rithea told officials gathered at a Friday meeting of representatives from the French Development Agency, the Pasteur Institute and various government ministries that despite the increased number of infections in the early part of the year, government officials do not expect the total for 2018 to be higher than usual.

Government data models indicate Cambodia could see anywhere from 10,000 to 17,000 cases in 2018, with officials saying 14,500 cases is the average number of dengue fever cases expected in a given year.

That said, the government intends to prepare for what could shape up to be an “epidemic” year for the disease as the peak of dengue infections typically coincides with the rainy season, from July through August.

“We must try to bring down the numbers to as low as possible,” Rithea said.

Dengue fever cases tend to naturally spike on a five- to six-year seasonal cycle, and the last time the country experienced a severe year was in 2012, when nearly 40,000 people were infected with the disease and as many as 160 people died. Given the timing, officials expected Cambodia to have another high caseload either in 2017 or 2018.

In addition to stocking medication, the NDCP has dispatched 40,000 intravenous fluids kits and 5,000 litres of pesticide spray to the provinces. Training will be provided to as many 112 physicians to shore up nationwide access to proper treatment.

The government has also put in request for support from the World Health Organization to carry out community-based health education, and is waiting for a reply.

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