HEALTH officials treating 21 people for severe diarrhoea and vomiting in Kratie province’s Chet Borey district – where five people died of cholera in March – said Thursday that they thought unclean water was responsible for the new outbreak of illness.
District Governor Toun Ngork said the illness began spreading through the district on Wednesday, and that an investigation by local officials had proved that bad water was the cause.
“They went to their rice fields after the rain and they drank the water in the lake and puddle nearby without boiling it, and they didn’t think about their health,” he said, referring to the sick villagers. “Health officials and myself often educate them to be careful with hygiene and to drink boiled water, but they don’t listen to us. That’s why they still get diarrhoea.”
Chhneang Vutha, deputy director of the provincial hospital, concurred with this assessment.
“They have diarrhoea and vomiting because they don’t pay enough attention to hygiene; they drank uncooked water and bad food,” he said. “They are not cholera cases.”
He added, though, that tests would be run on samples from the sick patients, some of whom are being treated at the hospital, to confirm the cause of illness.
Laboratory tests revealed that cholera caused five deaths in the same district in March. Around 200 people, 70 of whom were admitted to hospital, displayed symptoms of cholera during the week the tests results came back.
Initially, health officials blamed bad hygiene for the outbreak, and they were reluctant to comment on the presence of cholera in the district even after it had been confirmed, citing concerns that press coverage of the disease might negatively affect tourism.
Dr Nima Asgari, public health specialist at the World Health Organisation, said Thursday that tests should be conducted on the new group of sick villagers, noting that cholera “can be transferred by food or water”.