Sat, 12 Mar 2005

Dengue cases down, city still on alert

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

While the number of dengue cases has decreased steadily in the city during the past few weeks, health officials say they are still on the alert for an extraordinary outbreak.

"We are still waiving medical and hospital charges for third- class ward patients in 17 public hospitals around Jakarta, and continuing our standard awareness campaign and sporadic fumigation program," City Health Agency spokeswoman Evy Zelfino said on Wednesday.

Evy said the city also continued to monitor schools, office buildings, and public places, to ensure they did not become aedes aegypti mosquito breeding grounds.

Agency data shows 3,928 people have been infected with dengue since the beginning of January, with 26 dying from the illness. In the same period last year, more than 7,052 died of dengue.

"Since entering week nine and 10 of this year, the number of people infected with dengue has been on the decline, although this decline is unevenly spread. Some districts still have an increasing number of dengue cases, like Pademangan and Palmerah in Central Jakarta." Six more cases of the fever were found there this week, Evy said.

Meanwhile, two hospitals in Jakarta they said they were receiving less dengue fever patients. Staff at Budi Asih hospital in East Jakarta said they were now treating 32 dengue patients, compared with last week when they treated about 50.

Tarakan Hospital nursing department head Atiyah said the overflow of sick patients, which had been treated in hospital hallways for the fever during the past few weeks, had now dissipated.

"As of today, we have 26 dengue patients, of which 16 of them are children. Two days ago, we had 41 people with dengue. Even though the decrease is quite significant, still the hospital is on the alert for an expected increase of the infection," Atiyah said.

She said staff were also expecting an increase of people infected by tuberculosis and malnutrition.

"Due to the fuel price hikes, the poor who have infections such as tuberculosis or asthma, will lack proper nutrition and medication, which is costly. We have some of these cases already ... and we hope that patients don't have any problem applying for the Gakin health assistance, which the government promised to allocate to the poor from the fuel subsidy cuts."