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Alarm as Dengue deaths leap to 322 JAKARTA - Indonesian health officials say they are overwhelmed by the rapid spread of a dengue fever outbreak, as the death toll jumped to 322 on Friday from 260 the day before. With hospitals full and the poor finding treatment hard to get, officials fear the toll could climb fast despite a campaign of insecticide fogging aimed at killing the mosquito species that carries the dengue virus.
"We can't understand why it can increase so fast," health ministry spokeswoman Mariani Reksoprodjo said when asked why the toll was climbing so quickly. Some health officials believe a new and deadlier strain of dengue virus could be responsible and tests are being conducted to try to confirm this. The results are expected to take several more weeks. "This is unexpected, beyond normal expectations. Moreover, the public has been late in treating the problem when a member has high fever, late in transporting patients to the hospital," said I Nyoman Kandun, a senior official at the health ministry.
"And the hospitals were late in giving them the proper treatment," he said. The disease strikes annually during the rainy season in Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous country, starting in January and peaking in May or June. But the toll so far in 2004 is more than double that at the same time last year. Reported cases of infection since the start of the year also jumped on Friday, to almost 18,000 from 14,700 on the previous day, due in large part to several provinces not reporting daily counts on time.
Health officials said the numbers of deaths and infections could keep climbing rapidly in coming days because of the delay in case reporting from some of the country's 32 provinces. Babies are among the many victims who cannot get proper beds and lie on military-style mattresses in packed hospital corridors waiting to be checked by overworked doctors.
President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who rarely makes public addresses on national issues, urged hospitals across the country on Thursday to accept patients suffering from dengue fever regardless of their ability to pay. Megawati has been criticized from some quarters for not speaking out earlier, and the government in general taken to task for not doing enough to fight the disease. Most Indonesians do not have health insurance and the poor have slim access to quality medical care.
Long lines of patients and their families have crowded hospitals in the capital Jakarta. The country's most populous city with 12 million people, it has had the greatest number of dengue cases. Most victims live in urban areas on the main island of Java. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the disease, lives and reproduces around puddles of water especially common in inner-city slums during the rainy season from October to April.



Posted in Dengue Fever @ 27 February 2004 00:04 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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