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Red Cross Battles Dengue Fever in Cambodia

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says it is launching its biggest-ever health campaign in Cambodia to eliminate dengue fever, a viral disease found in tropical areas.

The focus of the Red Cross campaign is to eliminate mosquitoes, the carriers of dengue fever. Red Cross workers are using insecticides to kill the mosquitoes and are also teaching people the importance of clearing up pools of water, prime breeding grounds for the insects.

In its milder form, dengue fever is similar to flu. It causes sudden fever and acute pains in the joints, but it is not fatal. What the Red Cross is most concerned about is the more serious form of the disease, known as dengue hemorrhagic fever, which causes bleeding and the collapse of the circulatory system.

Dr. Hakan Sanbladh heads the health and emergencies division of the Red Cross. He says this form of the disease is usually fatal. "The hemorrhagic type is becoming more and more common and really killing a lot of children," he said. "You get bleeding and collapse ... actually circulatory collapse ... and unfortunately, there is no real treatment for it once it has come that far."

Dr. Sanbladh says the last major epidemic of the disease four years ago in Cambodia killed 500 children.