As Dengue Season Peaks Cambodia Runs Out of Defenses
Thursday, August 9, 2007
By Emily Lodish
The Cambodia Daily
At the height of
the dengue fever season, the Health Ministry has run out of the larvicide
chemical that is the best defense against the mosquito-borne illness, but more
is on the way, health officials said Tuesday.
director of the National Malaria Center, which runs the national dengue program,
said that 50 tons of Abate -which is used to prevent mosquitoes from reproducing
in clean water-was distributed in 19 provinces and municipalities most prone to
dengue fever this year, and there is none left.
As of Aug 2, more
than 29,000 cases of dengue fever had been reported and 316 people, most of them
children, had died from the virus, according to government figures.
"We need 50 or 60
more tons of Abate for a second round," Duong Socheat said, adding that Abate
needs to be reapplied every two to three months.
About 25 tons of
Abate are on the way from the World Health Organization, and further supplies
may be sent through help from the International Red Cross and the World Bank, he
Searching for an
alternative, the dengue program has begun a pilot project in 17 villages of
Kompong Speu province's Samraong Tong district that involves distributing the
"seven-color fish," also known as guppies, which feed off mosquito larvae.
seven-color fish, whose maximum length is four centimeters, can eat 100 larvae a
day. Two to three fish are enough to keep a large water jug larvae-free, To
Setha said. With support from WHO, the ministry has begun to raise the fish with
the goal of distributing them elsewhere in the country.
"There have been
very few cases of dengue in the villages with the project," he said of the guppy
method. "It is cheap and sustainable."
Abate, by contrast, costs approximately $5,000 per ton, according to Health Ministry dengue program manager Ngan Chantha.
And as the
government has relied heavily on Abate and other expensive chemicals, mosquitoes
have become more resistant, which could pose serious problems in the future.
guppies to control dengue have also been tried in recent years by British NGO
Care International in Banteay Meanchey province, said Sek Sisokhom, a Care
health program coordinator.
"They are very
good and very effective," she said. However, some families are afraid to put
fish in their drinking water, and changing people's behavior can be difficult,
Duong Socheat said
that water with the fish in it is drinkable. The fish is a good alternative to
Abate in water jugs, although it does not solve the problem of mosquitoes
breeding in water that gathers around houses or at construction sites, he added.
to using seven-color fish is that about 25 percent of the fish have gone missing
each month in the villages, according to To Setha.
This has been
puzzling pilot-program people, although they suspect children to be the culprit,
"Children find them beautiful and want to play with them," To Setha said.