Dengue fever outbreak reaches alarming level

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Major hospitals in Vientiane are grappling with an overwhelming number of patients suffering from dengue fever, raising concerns about the capacity to cope with the current outbreak.

The Mahosot, Setthathirath, Children’s, Mittaphab and 103 hospitals have converted corridors and meeting rooms into wards due to a lack of space and beds to treat the patients.

As of July 1, a total of 9,929 people have been diagnosed with dengue fever nationwide and 25 have died, according to the Ministry of Health’s Communicable Disease Control Department. This has become a cause of national concern and authorities have urged people from all walks of life to join together to destroy the breeding sources of dengue mosquitoes.

A resident of Xaysettha district in Vientiane, Ms Thavixok Nammavanh, 25, developed a serious headache last week and decided to go to Setthathirath Hospital in Donkoy village. She had to wait for at least 20 minutes before she was sent for a blood test. About 20 minutes later, she was informed she had dengue.

However, the doctor told her the case was not too serious because she had come to the hospital quickly. Because of the overwhelming number of patients at the hospital, she was given some medicines and sent back home. She was also told to get a blood test done every day to check for the symptoms of dengue. The medicines given included paracetamol and she also received Oralit rehydration solution.

Ms Thavixok was also given some pain relief medication and told to rest. “The doctor also told me that the 3rd, 4th and 5th days of illness could be the dangerous period for dengue fever. The patient must be closely monitored by the physician,” she said.

The doctor informed Ms Thavixok that she would soon recover if she just took the medicines and rested. She was also told to drink a lot of liquids, including soup. “Normally, dengue patients suffer from headache for a week before returning to normal,” the doctor said.

Ms Thavixok strictly followed the doctor’s advice. She met the doctor for at least six days for blood tests every morning. After six days, her condition got better and her health returned to normal.

Dengue outbreaks have also been reported in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries in the region.

Health officials said treatment is the final step in combating dengue fever. Reducing the population of dengue mosquitoes is the most effective way to fight the virus.

Effective measures include removing upside down old tins, coconut shells, water containers and tyres around houses. In addition, thick bushes should be cleared out in residential areas. People are advised to sleep under mosquito nets during the day and night to avoid mosquito bites.

Last year saw 6,446 cases of dengue fever and 19 deaths nationwide, according to the Communicable Disease Control Department.

Scientists identified the first case of dengue fever in Brazil in 1779 and it has since spread throughout tropical zones, especially in America and Asia.

According to the Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology, Laos identified the first case of dengue fever in Vientiane in 1977. In the same year, dengue fever was put on the precautionary list of the Epidemiology Unit of the centre with regard to the need to raise awareness to prevent the spread of the virus. Cases of the virus became more prominent in Vientiane between 1985 and 1987 and it has now become a serious health concern.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cases of dengue have grown dramatically around the world in recent decades. Some 2.5 billion people – two-fifths of the world’s population – are now at risk from dengue. WHO currently estimates there may be 50 million dengue infections worldwide every year.

The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries in Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific are the most seriously affected. Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced dengue haemorrhagic fever epidemics, a number that increased more than four-fold by 1995.