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Dengue fever spikes in Asia

Southeast Asia could be especially hard-hit.

Published July 31, 2007


HANOI, Vietnam - Dengue fever is raging across Asia, prompting the World Health Organization to warn that the region could face the worst outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus in nearly a decade.

The disease, commonly called the "bone breaker" illness because of the excruciating joint pain it causes, has flared everywhere from ultramodern Singapore to poor Vietnam. There are four different types of dengue, but none have a cure or vaccine.

Cambodia is now one of the most worrisome spots, where the disease has attacked about 25,000 people and killed nearly 300 children this year. That's about three times more than the number of cases for all of 2005, according to WHO.

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

John Ehrenberg, WHO's regional adviser on vector-borne diseases, said it could potentially reach that level this year.

Malaysia has seen a 50 percent jump in cases this year over the same period in 2006, with more than 1,000 patients admitted every week for the past month and 56 deaths recorded through June, according to Health Ministry figures.

In Indonesia, more than 100,000 infections have been reported this year, including 1,100 deaths. That compares to 114,000 cases and the same number of fatalities for all of 2006, said Nyoman Kandun, a senior health ministry official who predicted the number will hit 200,000 by year's end.

Singapore, known for its spotless streets and cutting-edge health facilities, has reported nearly 5,000 cases and at least three deaths. Early rains also caused a surge in cases in Thailand, with more than 20,000 cases reported through June, including 17 deaths.

In Vietnam, which also typically logs a high number of annual cases, health officials have seen a 40 percent increase over last year, reporting more than 33,000 infections this year and 32 deaths.

Fast Facts:

Dengue fever

The warning: Dengue fever is raging across Asia, prompting the World Health Organization to warn it could be the region's worst outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus in nearly a decade.

Worst-hit countries: The disease has flared everywhere from ultramodern Singapore to Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

The symptoms: Commonly called the "bone breaker" illness, it causes excruciating joint pain as well as rashes, nausea, severe headaches and high fever.


[Last modified July 30, 2007, 23:10:51]

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