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Cholera Outbreak Feared

Cholera Outbreak Feared

International and local health experts say a deadly new type of cholera now threatening

many countries in Asia could enter Cambodia at any time.

A warning issued by the World Health Organization's (WHO) regional office to its

representative in Phnom Penh warned about potential diarrhea epidemic caused by Vibrio

cholera 0139.

"We are all worried about the emergency, the coming of this cholera in Cambodia.

It is dangerous because people die of infection," said Dr. Jean Paul Menu, WHO

representative in Cambodia.

He added that the new cholera which carries the "Bengal" virus was originally

identified in Bangladesh from where it spread to India. The latest outbreak of the

disease was reported to have occured in southern China where tropical weather creates

the right conditions for existance of the virus. Vibrio cholera 0139 has reportedly

already entered Thailand, and possibly also Malaysia, but the representative was

unable to confirm this.

A major concern is a question whether the new disease can be treated like Vibrio

cholera 01 (or normal cholera), the bacteria of which exists mainly in contaminated

water and food. As Dr. Menu explained, patients of normal cholera can quickly recover

if they receive treatment with an appropriate antibiotic. Injection of Oral Rehydration

Salts is needed when bodies are found to be dehydrated because of severe diarrhea

and nausea.

Bacteria already present in humans quickly become resistant, defusing further infection

of the same strain of cholera. "You don't have to do much [to treat normal cholera],"

the doctor said.

"But in Cambodia this is not the case because doctors are not everywhere. Sometimes

they are not at work or don't know enough to treat cholera or patients live far away

from the clinic," Dr. Menu said.

Dr. Mean Chhi Vun from the National Center for Hygiene and Epidimiology said many

cases occured in Battambang and Pursat provinces, but were not recorded in national

figures because the victims could not be properly analyzed, due to the lack of medical

equipment.

Fearing a possible epidemic of the new cholera, health experts are preparing an awareness

program for medical agencies and the general population.

Dr. Menu said the immunization process used to fight Vibrio cholera 01 is useless

against Vibrio cholera 0139 which can cause very severe diarrhea.

"We don't know what we are going to do when it comes," he said, adding

that the new cholera kills up to five percent of those infected, compared to one

percent who die from Vibrio cholera 01.

"For sure we will have many difficulties because we don't have means to figure

out the symptoms. If the disease starts to spread the result may be equal to death,"

said Dr. Mean Chhi Vun.

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