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Dengue Fever May Become Endemic in Hong Kong

Hong Kong health officials say Dengue Fever may become a permanent threat to the population after they confirmed 17 cases of the mosquito-borne disease were contracted in the territory. Government officials are launching intensive measures to prevent a major outbreak of the virus.

The Hong Kong Department of Health says now that it has confirmed that Dengue Fever cases have been contracted locally, they are concerned that the virus will be endemic in the territory.

Seventeen people have fallen ill after being bitten by mosquitos here. The latest victim is a 61-year-old man living the neighborhood of Sham Shui Po, a highly urbanized section of Kowloon Peninsula. All local cases have been diagnosed either in Kowloon or in some of the territory's outlying islands.

The patients are apparently suffering from the milder strain of the hemorrhagic fever. It is not fatal, but still characterized by body temperatures as high as 40 degrees as well as headaches and severe joint and muscle pain.

This is the first time that Dengue Fever has been contracted in Hong Kong. Last year, the nearby Chinese territory of Macau saw its first Dengue Fever outbreak. The Hong Kong government responded by launching a major mosquito eradication campaign.

The government is now stepping up those efforts intensifying fumigation to reduce the mosquito population before next year's rainy season. They also hope that the onset of cooler weather this month will help prevent a major outbreak.

However, the Health Department warns there is every chance that sporadic cases of Dengue will continue to occur in Hong Kong as the virus is endemic in Southeast Asia. Fatalities occur in only a small percentage of those who get infected. The most vulnerable are young children.

But some Hong Kong residents are not worried. "Not really," said one local woman. "We live in Hong Ham, not near the coastal areas, so I don't really very much worry about that."

But others are a bit concerned. "Yes. That is the one with mosquito and very dangerous, like can kill people's lives," said another resident. "But normally they come from Singapore, but I don't know why they come to Hong Kong at all."

Health officials say there is no vaccine against Dengue, but one could be developed within 10 years.