"Cambodia battles serious outbreak of dengue fever", Agence France-Presse, Aug. 4, 1998
PHNOM PENH, Aug 4, 1998 (AFP) - Cambodia is battling a serious outbreak of dengue fever after an unusually warm winter, with thousands of children falling victim to the mosquito-borne disease, an aid worker said Tuesday.
"This year is a big epidemic," said Dominique Lapiere, medical cordinator for the French charity Medecins Sans Frontieres which is involved with government health workers in combating the disease.
Lapiere said Cambodia suffered an outbreak every two or three years but this year's was more serious than previously because the weather was not cold enough last December to stop the tiger mosquito, which carries the virus, from reproducing.
The disease mainly affects children, as well as expatriates who have built up no immunity, and Lapiere estimated that thousands of children in several provinces had been taken ill in recent months.
She had no figures for the number of deaths and health ministry officials were not immediately available to comment. There is no vaccine for dengue fever and no specific drug to treat the disease, only the symptoms. These include fever, shock and
intestinal bleeding in severe cases. Lapiere said one Phnom Penh children's hospital was performing several blood transfusions a day on dengue sufferers but there was a shortage of blood and a danger of transmitting HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS, even if supplies were carefully checked.
She said Medicins Sans Frontieres was working with the health ministry in the provinces to strengthen health care in hospitals and health centres, train staff and distribute insecticide to stop mosquitos breeding.
Lapiere said an outbreak of cholera in the northwestern town of Poipet now seemed to be dying out, with no new cases in the past few days.
She said some 20-to-30 people may have died, according to rough estimates, out of about 200 who contracted cholera.