FIVE people have died from acute watery diarrhoea in Ratanakkiri province since Sunday, prompting around 10 families to flee into the forest to escape the disease, local officials said.
Pev Vil, the chief of Lbung 1 commune in Lumphat district, said two people died from the illness in Katoeng village on Sunday and three on Monday, and that an additional four villagers were receiving treatment at Lumphat district hospital.
“The first death was a 6-year-old boy who got sick on his family’s farm and died shortly afterward. After that, more people got sick and died,” he said.
He added that the villagers had been unable to reach the hospital in time because of the poor condition of the 20-kilometre stretch of road between the village and the provincial capital, Banlung.
Pev Vil said “uncooked water” and “bad food” had caused diarrhoea and vomiting.
Tha Bunthak, deputy director of the Ratanakkiri provincial health department, said there have been 1,072 acute watery diarrhoea cases and 28 deaths in the province since April 10 this year.
He said samples from the victims had not yet been sent to the Ministry of Health’s Department of Communicable Disease Control for testing, despite speculation on the part of some villagers and officials that cholera has hit the area.
“I don’t think it is cholera. In the past, we have sent many samples for testing, but the results always show that it was just a case of acute watery diarrhoea,” he said.
He called on the group of families that fled to the forest to return home so that health officials can provide treatment should any of them fall ill with diarrhoea.
“These people could face even more health problems because they have run off into the forest – because there they won’t have clean water or clean food,” he said.
Kert Sina, director of the Mondulkiri provincial health department, said that since May the province has seen more than 20 cases of acute watery diarrhoea and two related deaths.
“We do not have a serious problem with diarrhoea here. One or two cases are sent to the hospital almost every day, but we have the situation under control,” he said.
Sok Touch, director of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, declined to comment on Tuesday.