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30 Dead as Dengue Fever Epidemic Hits Myanmar: Report

Dengue fever killed 30 people in Myanmar in the first six months of the year, local media said Monday, making it the latest country in the region to experience a surge in the mosquito-borne disease.

Than Winn, a senior Myanmar health ministry official, told the weekly Myanmar Times newspaper that the number of cases was soaring.

"In the first six months of this year there have been about 3,000 cases of the disease and 30 deaths. This is much higher than the first six months of 2006," Than Winn said.

The semi-official newspaper did not say how many people had died in the first half of 2006, but said a total of 130 people died and 11,049 were infected with the virus last year.

Dengue fever normally takes its greatest toll in Myanmar in the second half of the year, after the rainy season begins in June. The disease is especially dangerous in children and the elderly.

Myanmar's health system has suffered from decades of economic mismanagement, and the United Nations estimates that the military-ruled nation spends just 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product on health.

Dengue fever is on the rise across Southeast Asia. In Cambodia at least 132 people have died this year, while Myanmar's neighbour Thailand has reported 21,000 cases in 2007, a 36 percent increase on last year.

The virus, which leads to a sudden onset of fever with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, thrives in urban areas.


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