The number of fatal malaria cases in Cambodia almost doubled in the first half of 2009 compared with the same period last year, while the overall number of infections rose more than 58 percent, according to figures from Ministry of Health officials.
Tol Bunkea, chief epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health, said that the number of malaria deaths this year stood at 130 out of 32,638 registered malaria cases. In comparison, there were 67 fatalities out of 20,563 reported cases of malaria in the first half of 2008.
Duong Socheat, director of National Center of Parasitology, Entomology, and Malaria Control, explained that the increase was due to the early rains and the fact that the government had distributed mosquito nets too late this year.
The increasing number of people migrating to remote forested areas on the Cambodian-Thai border, such as in Pailin and Oddar Meanchey provinces, also led to the rise in malaria cases, Dr. Socheat said.
He added that the government is increasingly concerned about the effectiveness of medicine for malaria treatment, as recent international studies found strains of drug-resistant malaria in western Cambodia.
"Before it took 48 hours to kill the parasite, but now [in some cases] it takes 80 hours."
In February, the World Health Organization started a 22.5 million-US dollar cross-border project to contain the drug-resistant malaria strains.
However, Dr Habib Najibullah from the World Health Organisation in Cambodia said that the increase in the number of cases is not a cause for panic. The figures are slightly distorted, he explained, as the methods of recording malaria related data have greatly improved such that more cases are being identified, contributing to the rising figures.
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