02/09/2005, 00.00
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Red alert over dengue fever

by Mathias Hariyadi
More than a hundred people killed and 4,700 infected in just over a month.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Red alert over a deadly outbreak of dengue fever that has killed more than a hundred people in just over a month.

Given the gravity of the situation, Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari has declared a state of alert in six provinces: Jakarta, West Java, East Kalimantan, Sud Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggaradove.

The latest figures indicate that 4,700 people have been infected and killed 102 .

Known in Bahasa Indonesia as deman berdarah (DB, i.e. blood fever), dengue has hit West Java hardest with 837 cases since January.

Fatimah Resmiati, an official with the health authority in West Java's capital of Bandung, said: "We have dispatched medical teams to the two regencies [i.e. districts] to help local health agencies cope with the outbreak".

Given the relatively low numbers however, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, has rejected the idea of declaring the dengue outbreak 'a national disaster."

Still, Health Minister Siti has warned that "although figures have not yet passed those of last year, it is clear that there has been a major increase in the number of people affected".

Since 1999 in fact the incidence of the disease has increased. By 2004 there were 59,321 recorded cases in 24 provinces with 669 dead.

Under the current tsunami-related emergency situation, the government is offering free medical to the poorest patients in state-run hospital.

According to Health Minister Siti, the virus that caused this year's outbreak has not yet been classified. What is known is that dengue fever is an acute infectious disease caused by an arbovirus, transmitted by aedes mosquitoes which easily breed in areas and seasons that are hot and humid, especially after long rainfalls.

The disease's intensity has a 4-level classification: DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 (which was responsible for last year's outbreak) and DEN-4.

Its symptoms include high fever, headaches, severe joint and muscle pain with possible haemorrhage and fainting (dengue haemorrhagic fever or shock is the worst, and sometimes lethal, form of the disease). Many of those who are affected die because they are not treated early enough.

Dengue fever was first recorded in 1968 in Surabaya, East Java, and Jakarta, when it killed 24 people.

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