Thu, 08 May 2003

Dengue fever outbreak could occur this year

Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The number of people affected by dengue fever is expected to increase drastically this year, the peak of the five-year breeding cycle of the aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus.

Indonesia has the world's second highest mortality rate for dengue fever after Thailand.

During the last peak of the aedes aegypti's breeding cycle in 1998, 72,133 cases of dengue were reported nationwide with 14,114 deaths.

"The best way to avoid getting the virus is to clean, bury and cover all things that could serve as mosquito nests," said Dr. Khie Chen from the Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital on Thursday.

He said dengue fever was linked to unhealthy environments that favored the breeding of the mosquitoes.

The doctor said places where mosquitoes frequently bred included water reserves for bathing, water in flower vases and pots, air conditioners, water dispensers and wet laundry.

He added that fogging to control the aedes aegypti population was essential.

It was reported that in 2001 the government budgeted Rp 2 billion (US$224,719) for fumigation to eliminate the aedes aegypti population, a figure far below the between Rp 9 billion and Rp 10 billion experts say is needed.

"We cannot entirely depend on the government, so prevention must start with individuals," said Khie, who specializes in tropical and internal diseases.

It is recommended that those bitten by an aedes aegypti mosquito drink water mixed with salt and sugar to increase the body's electrolytes.

Dengue fever was first diagnosed in Indonesia in 1968 during an outbreak that affected several regions in country.

About 18,000 people a year on average are infected with the dengue virus nationwide, with about 700 to 750 deaths annually.

The aedes aegypti mosquito, which can be identified by its black and white-striped legs, carries two viruses -- the dengue virus and the chikungunya virus.

The two viruses often compete with each other for dominance inside the mosquito.

When the chikungunya virus is dominant in the mosquito, those bitten will suffer from chikungunya. When the dengue virus is dominant, the mosquito infects victims with dengue fever.

The symptoms of dengue include a fever of more than 38 degrees Celsius for between two and seven days, headaches, nausea and the occurrence of red bumps on the skin.

The incubation period after a person is bitten by the mosquito is between eight and 10 days for adults and four to six days for children.

Dengue fever is one of the top killer diseases, especially among children under the age of five, who account for approximately 50 percent of the deaths from the disease.