The dengue fever situation may escalate this year, warned an official from the Ministry of Health’s National Dengue Control Programme (NDCP). A thorough cleanup of mosquito habitats in all communities will be necessary if this is to be avoided.

NDCP director Leang Rithea said that in 2023, the dengue fever cases could potentially reach over 20,000, a huge increase over the 12,500 cases that were recorded in 2022, 19 of whom died.

“The ministry has prepared 200 tonnes of the anti-dengue larvicide Abate, 70,000 serums and nearly 6,000 litres of mosquito repellent, with the hope of avoiding such a drastic increase,” he added.

He said the cycle of large-scale dengue fever outbreaks typically occurred every five or six years. The last large explosion of cases was in 2019, when Cambodia saw a total of 68,597 patients, 48 of whom died. In 2021, 1,811 cases were recorded, with eight deaths.

“The deaths of most of the patients were caused by their families or guardians failing to seek treatment for them early enough for a successful medical intervention,” he said.

He urged the public and local authorities – especially officials at health centres – across the country to transport patients suspected of developing dengue fever to national-level hospitals.

They should not attempt to use traditional medicines or adopt a “wait-and-see” approach, he warned.

“In the worst cases, it can be as little as four days from infection before it may be too late for treatment. In particular, if a patient develops nosebleeds, it is imperative that they are taken to a hospital immediately,” he said.

Dengue fever patients usually experience a fever of 39-40 degrees. Other symptoms include inflamed eyes, nausea or vomiting, abdominal or muscle pain, rashes on the skin, or joint pain, warned the ministry’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The fever is transmitted by tiger mosquitoes, and it is possible for pregnant women to pass the virus onto their unborn babies, it added.