Cases of dengue fever in Thailand have risen 36 percent since last year, local press reported Sunday, as an epidemic of the mosquito-borne disease swept the region.
The outbreak has killed 17 people in Thailand and affected more than 21,000 since the beginning of the year, the English-language Nation newspaper reported, quoting figures from the health ministry.
It said that the number infected by the virus, which is especially dangerous in children and the elderly, had risen by 36 percent from the same period in 2006. The newspaper did not say how many people died last year.
"The situation this year is more serious than last year because of the earlier arrival of the rainy season, which brought forward the hatching period of the dengue mosquito," Vichai Stimai, a doctor at the health ministry, told the Nation.
Dengue fever is on the rise across Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, which borders Thailand, at least 132 people have died this year, while wealthy Singapore has seen 3,597 cases and three deaths.
The virus, which leads to a sudden onset of fever with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, thrives in urban areas because the carrier breeds in stagnant water, including in blocked drain-pipes and rubbish heaps.