Leang Rithea, director of the Ministry of Health’s National Dengue Control Programme (NDCP), said that from January 1 to February 7, more than 400 cases of dengue fever were recorded in Cambodia.

Dengue fever is an infectious disease transmitted by two species of Aedes mosquitoes (Ae aegypti and Ae albopictus). There are four variants of dengue virus. Moderate dengue fever causes fever, a rash, muscle and joint pain, while severe cases can cause heavy bleeding, a sudden drop in blood pressure and even death.

“This year has seen more than triple the number recorded in the same period last year,” said Rithea.

He added that this number is likely to rise, as the community becomes less resistant to the virus. Last year, Cambodia reported a total of 12,500 cases. For 2023, the NDCP forecast 20,000 infections.

“One cycle of high rates of infection is repeated every four or five years. It is because the immunity of the community is reduced during this time span. Weakened herd immunity increases the risk, as the number of newborns and previously uninfected people rises. It is possible for the disease to occur four times in one person’s lifetime,” he said.

According to Rithea, cases are on the rise in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Pursat and Siem Reap. Dengue is common in overcrowded areas, and also occurs in remote villages if standing water is present and people do not clean water jars regularly.

He called on the public to protect themselves and to seek medical attention if dengue is suspected, especially in children.

“People should pay attention to keeping their houses, and the environment around them, clean. Water jars and flower vases should be cleaned diligently, at least once per week. Old coconut shells, car tyres and the like should be turned over. Any place where water is allowed to stand could become a potential place for tiger mosquitoes to breed,” he warned.

“If a member of your family has a fever, do not try to medicate them yourselves. You should take them to medical centre within 48 hours. Avoid small clinics and village medics and instead go to public hospitals as their medical staff is trained to treat dengue correctly,” he added.

Last year’s 12,500 cases resulted in 19 deaths, whereas the 1,811 cases recorded in 2021 led to eight deaths.

In addition to diminishing herd immunity, the health ministry suggested that heavy rains and flooding throughout 2022 had resulted in more potential breeding sites for mosquitoes.