HEALTH officials have urged calm amid heightened fears of a diarrhoea outbreak after three villagers succumbed to the illness in Kampong Speu province, continuing a recent spate of cases that last week prompted the Ministry of Health to launch a nationwide sanitation and hygiene awareness campaign.
Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said samples from the three deceased Kampong Speu villagers had been sent to Calmette Hospital for analysis.
An official from the Kampong Speu Communicable Diseases Control Department who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to reporters said more than 50 people in the area had come down with serious diarrhoea.
They got diarrhoea because they drank water from a pond that was unhygienic..."
Nov Doem, the chief of Voasar commune, where the deaths and reported outbreak occurred, said villagers had begun to panic and were erecting scarecrows outside their houses to protect them from infections.
But Ly Sovann stressed on Monday that the cause of the diarrhoea outbreak was the increasing number of villagers consuming contaminated water, adding that people who had boiled their water had avoided falling ill.
“They got diarrhoea because they drank water from a pond that was unhygienic because both animals and villagers drank the same water,” he said.
Pieter van Maaren, country representative for the World Health Organisation, said Monday that his office was monitoring the situation closely in partnership with the Ministry of Health, but added that he was not concerned about the possibility of an outbreak of cholera, a diarrhoeal disease caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacterium.
“The situation is such that, if you get large numbers of cases with watery diarrhoea, then that definitely warrants an investigation into a cholera outbreak,” he said.
“But so far, there have been very few cases that would warrant such an investigation.”
The campaign launched by the Health Ministry last week involves posting officials on the ground in every province to treat cases of diarrhoea. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE