Dengue Fever Deaths Nosedive to 65 in 2008

Dengue fever killed 65 people so far this year, a dramatic drop from the recent past, health officials said Monday.

There have been 9,200 recorded dengue fever infections and 65 deaths to date in 2008, compared with 39,851 infections and 407 deaths in 2007, said Ngan Chantha, head of the Ministry of Health’s National Dengue Fever Control Program.

Urban areas continued to be the most likely place to pick up the mosquito-borne illness, Ngan Chantha said.

“Generally, the places where many people live and create gar­bage, and the places where people migrate, they can bring disease to new places,” he said by phone.

Kompong Cham province had the most dengue fever deaths and illnesses, according to the Ministry. Kandal province, Siem Reap pro­vince and Phnom Penh municipality followed, in that order.

Despite the drop in fatalities this year, the number of deaths are not good, said Dr Beat Richner, the Swiss pediatrician who runs the five Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

“Last year was a very big dengue year and normally it is a cycle of three or five years. This year we should not have dengue fever, but this year we have it because the efforts to neutralize the breeding places was not done in the efficient and correct way,” Richner said.

The Kantha Bopha hospitals treat an estimated 90 percent of the country’s youth dengue cases, Rich­ner said by phone Monday.

This year, there were about 7,000 dengue patients at Kantha Bopha hospitals. Of those only about 10 percent of the parents of the infected children knew how to use the mosquito-killing chemical called Abate, which can be sprayed onto mosquito breeding grounds.

“You find the breeding places around the houses so you can contain them. You can stop and control the epidemic, but it was not done this year, as 7,000 cases is too much,” Richner said.

There are 48 serious dengue fever patients currently being treated in the Kantha Bopha hospitals, he added.

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