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Dengue Death Toll Highest in Nearly a Decade, Official Says

An early monsoon that encouraged mosquitoes led to the highest dengue fever death rate in nearly a decade, health officials said Friday.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever, or "bonecrusher disease," killed 407 Cambodians and infected more than 40,000 people in 2007, officials said. Health officials said Friday hospitals were ill equipped to handle the outbreak.

In 2006, 16,650 people were infected and 158 died. The death toll for 2007 was the highest since 1998, when the disease killed 474 people, the Associated Press reported.

The disease is characterized by headache, fever, exhaustion and severe joint and muscle pain. Health officials sought to curb the spread of dengue by encouraging Cambodians to cover water containers and treat standing water where mosquitoes breed.

Severe outbreaks of the disease in 2007 were also reported in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.