Ministry Starts Program To Reduce Dengue-Causing Mosquitos

By Karen Hawkins
May 19, 2005

In preparation for this year’s rainy season, the Ministry of Health has launched a dengue prevention program that aims to reduce the population of disease-spreading mosquitoes in seven of the country’s hardest-hit provinces, officials said Wednesday.

The ministry’s dengue control program plans to distribute 65 tons of sachets that contain a water treatment that kills the larvae of the dengue-spreading aedes mosquito, said Ngan Chanta of the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control Program.

The aedes, or Tiger, mosquito bites primarily during the day, and unlike its malaria-carrying relative, it prefers densely populated areas, though it is also found in rural provinces.

The water treatment chemical has already been distributed to officials in Phnom Penh and Kandal provinces, two areas at the highest risk for infection. Other provinces slated to receive shipments are Siem Reap, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Kompong Thom and Kompong Cham, Ngan Chanta said.

Kompong Speu is also emerging as a high-risk area, and future treatments may be distributed there as well, he said.

Each treatment—which is mixed into water storage sources—lasts for three months, and treatments will have to be reapplied during July and August, health officials said.

In addition to distributing the treatments door-to-door in the earmarked provinces, teams from the National Malaria Center also provide guidance on how to properly use them, Ngan Chanta said.

The rainy season is the peak transmission time for dengue, according to the World Health Organization. Symptoms include high fever, headache, skin rash and muscle soreness. They typically appear about five to seven days after an infected bite. An infected person should be kept under mosquito netting or in a screened room during their illness to prevent further spreading of the disease, according to WHO.

Children under 15 are particularly susceptible to infection, Ngan Chanta said, and he urged parents to seek treatment immediately if their child develops a sudden high fever of 39-40 degrees Celsius.

“Otherwise, their children become very serious, and it becomes very hard to save their life,” Ngan Chanta said.

Standing water serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and Duong Socheat, director of the NMC, urged people to store rainwater and other runoff in covered jars.

Health officials also plan to launch television and radio spots on dengue prevention, he said.

“We are really being careful,” Ngan Chanta said. “We would like to inform the community of the control program[s].”

While Cambodia has reported 700 dengue cases and eight deaths so far this year, “the situation is better than last year,” Ngan Chanta said. There were 9,943 cases last year, with 153 deaths, according to the NMC.

“[The situation] is under our control,” Duong Socheat said.

Meanwhile, Thai health officials are warning of a pending dengue epidemic there in the coming months as the number of cases has jumped 43 percent so far in 2005, Agence France-Presse reported.

There have been 6,689 cases of dengue and 10 deaths in Thailand during the first four months of this year compared with about 4,000 cases and 51 deaths for all of 2004, according to media reports.

Thai authorities stepped up their prevention efforts after a 13-year-old boy died earlier this month from dengue haemorrhagic fever, a deadly complication of the disease, according to reports.

There have been over 130 cases of DHF so far this year in Thailand and one death.