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Dengue Fever on the Rise in Southeast Asia - 2001-10-23

Officials meeting in Singapore are calling for renewed efforts to curb dengue fever, which is on the rise in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.

Singapore's Minister of State for the Environment Sidek Saniff wants more international cooperation in fighting dengue fever. He says experts in Southeast Asia, in particular, should work together and share research on the mosquito-borne disease.

Mr. Sidek is among the health experts and policymakers studying the disease at a World Health Organization conference in Singapore this week. Dengue fever cases have been increasing around the world in the past few years, although researchers do not know why.

WHO experts say it costs millions of dollars to treat the disease each year. Dengue fever is not limited to developing countries. More than 50 cases were detected in Hawaii earlier this month.

WHO figures show that in 1998 there were more than a million known cases worldwide, which killed 3,500 people.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Sidek pointed out that cases have surged in prosperous Singapore despite spraying for mosquitoes, public education and fines imposed on those with mosquitoes breeding on their property.

Government figures show 953 new cases from June through August, up from 892 cases in the first five months of this year. There has been one recent confirmed death from the disease in Singapore.

Dengue is a viral illness that causes fever, joint pain and chills. Some strains cause internal bleeding and death. It is mostly found in tropical and sub-tropical regions.