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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Deadly Dengue Fever Outbreak Hits Southeast Asia

Hanoi, Vietnam (AHN) - The World Health Organization has called for better prevention campaigns following the worst outbreak of dengue fever in Southeast Asia. The outbreak of this "bone-breaker" disease is seen in parts of Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.

A large number of the victims of this disease are children. The main symptoms are fever and crying from intense joint pain, a common symptom of the disease that spreads to humans by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which feeds during the day.

Michael Nathan, a dengue expert at WHO in Geneva told the Associated Press, "We should really be in prevention mode, putting in place sound measures for suppressing the vector population so we can at least dampen down the epidemic."

Since the past two months, some 350 patients have been admitted to hospitals in Vietnam's southern Ho Chi Minh City every week, almost double the number from the same period last year, the AP reports.

So far there have been nearly 80,000 cases of dengue fever registered in Vietnam this year, including 68 deaths, with maximum cases reported in the country's southern provinces where the monsoon season runs from June through December. It is also a 50 percent increase over the same period in 2006.

The number of cases has dropped down to about 2,000 cases each week since early October, from nearly 3,000 new cases reported weekly in September. "We are now concentrating our efforts to completely wipe out dengue outbreaks to prevent possible flare ups next year," he said.

In Indonesia, more than 123,500 cases and 1,250 deaths are reported because of dengue so far. It has already surpassed the 114,000 cases for all of 2006. Jakarta is worst hit area. Cambodia also has been hit hard, with some 38,500 cases and 389 deaths, more than double the same figures from 2006. Large number of those sickened were children younger than 15. Thailand and Malaysia have recorded a combined 80,000 cases, with 67 and 88 deaths, respectively.

The last major dengue outbreak to hit Southeast Asia was in 1998, when about 350,000 cases and nearly 1,500 deaths were reported. Indonesia and Thailand were not included in that tally.

There is no commercially available vaccine for the dengue flavivirus. However, one of the many ongoing vaccine development programs is the Pediatric Dengue Vaccine Initiative which was set up in 2003 with the aim of accelerating the development and introduction of dengue vaccine(s) that are affordable and accessible to poor children in endemic countries.

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