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Public warned of dengue fever

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A child being treated for dengue fever at the National Pediatric Hospital in Phnom Penh in 2019. Hong Menea

Public warned of dengue fever

The National Dengue Control Programme (NDCP) reminded people to be vigilant against dengue fever, as the first five months of this year saw more than 1,200 confirmed cases of the disease, an increase of about 300 compared to the same period last year.

The warning comes after the rainy season began with frequent rainfall in almost every part of the Kingdom, creating a large number of pools of stagnant water for mosquitoes to breed in.

NDCP director Leang Rithea told The Post that dengue fever case numbers had risen alarmingly over the last two weeks, though the situation remained under control.

“The reason for the increase in dengue fever cases was because of the hot weather, humidity and rainfall. When the heat increases, the rainfall and the number of mosquitoes increase accordingly. Obviously, we see that it has rained quite a bit over the last two weeks,” he said.

He said that only two out of the more than 1,200 dengue patients have died so far as a result of their illnesses, and in both cases their conditions were made much worse by a delay in receiving treatment at a specialist hospital. Instead, they received treatment in their villages from doctors without legitimate degrees or training and who were unskilled at administering serums to the patients.

Had they sought treatment at a proper hospital earlier in the course of their illness, they likely would not have died, he noted.

“I want to make it clear that if it really is dengue fever or even if you are in doubt about what it might be, never try to take the medicines for it on your own. Just come to one of the public hospitals immediately or within 48 hours,” Rithea explained.

He also said that dengue fever usually occurs in crowded places such as Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, Tbong Khmum and Siem Reap, but it can also occur in remote villages if they use a lot of large jugs that fill up with water and they do not know how to clean them.

He called on people to practise health measures and clean jugs or any other containers of standing water frequently. They should keep their houses clean and let enough natural light inside them during the day while eliminating all sources of standing water near the house no matter how small, such as cans, tires or even just coconut shells.

Rithea emphasised that for immediate measures, the NDCP will issue an announcement notifying people that dengue fever occurs in the rainy season and the case numbers will increase.

“Rainy season is dengue season, as always. But we focus mainly on where it is most risky. The reason is that if we keep spraying mosquito repellent and putting out the anti-dengue larvicide Abate too often, the mosquitoes will become immune. They will actually evolve that way, as any mosquitoes resistant to the poisons will live and all the rest will die. The ones that live are the only ones that get to reproduce and they pass on their immunity in their genes, which would increase in strength over time in that manner,” he said.

He added that it is not the Ministry of Health alone that is responsible for dengue fever measures, but all relevant institutions and especially the people themselves who have to police their surroundings and eliminate standing water sources, including rubber tires, which are a big source of mosquitoes.

“People keep asking why medics do not come to spray the repellent, but last I checked medics do not come to pick up rubbish at their houses, either. We don’t have time to do all that and we need people to take an active role in this themselves,” Rithea said.

Kuoy Bunthoeun, director of the Kandal provincial health department, said that every year in the rainy season, officials inform people through health centres about dengue fever so that they will be aware of care and danger caused by it.

He added that officials also received a stockpile of the anti-dengue larvicide Abate from the health ministry and distributed it to communities so they put it in their jugs to kill larvae to avoid breeding mosquitoes.

“In this province, we have many cases of dengue fever, but it is not very serious usually. From January through late May, we had 184 reported cases of dengue fever, but nobody has died,” he said.

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