TWO people died and almost 200 became ill after contracting acute watery diarrhoea in two districts in Ratanakkiri province within the last week, an official said yesterday.
Tha Bunthak, deputy director of the provincial Health Department, said two people died, 16 were seriously ill and 106 had mild symptoms in O’Chum and Laak communes, both of which are in O’Chum district. He added that 52 people in O’Yadav district had also contracted diarrhoea.
“Two villagers died of diarrhoea, and almost 200 people are sick from diarrhoea in two districts,” he said. “The sick are being treated by our doctors.”
Tha Bunthak said that diarrhoea had spread widely after breaking out last weekend.
“It has calmed down, but it doesn’t mean it is no more,” he said, and added that he had stationed staff in affected villages to monitor the situation.
He said he believed the outbreak had been caused by unhygienic practices.
“The diarrhoea was caused from no sanitation from people in using water and eating food,” he said, but it was unclear whether the diarrhoea had been caused by cholera.
“The sample is on the way to Phnom Penh,” he said. “We just know it is diarrhoea. Only test results can tell us the facts.”
Andrew Martin, country manager for Health Unlimited, an NGO that has been assisting health officials in combating AWD in Ratanakkiri, said yesterday that he had received unconfirmed reports of an outbreak in areas of the province that had previously been unaffected.
He said there appeared to have been a recent decline in AWD cases in the province as a whole, but cautioned that this did not necessarily mean that the worst was over.
“It is part of the disease pattern that there have been reductions and surges,” he said. “We don’t know if it is going to get worse at some point.”
He said it was also worrying that the disease had “spread to other villages previously unaffected”.
Dr Nima Asgari, a public health specialist for the World Health Organisation, said there had been a marked decline in the number of AWD cases reported nationwide in recent months.
“It’s down by around 25 percent compared to May, which was the peak,” he said.
He added that cholera cases were decreasing at an even faster rate than other AWD cases.
Following the beginning of a cholera outbreak that began last November, 606 cases were confirmed as of August 31, according to Health Ministry figures.
The latest figures suggest an increase in the number of cases since July 6, when 465 had been confirmed. But Asgari said the apparent spike was attributable to the fact that a single hospital in July reported cases from previous months.
Ly Sovann, deputy director of Communicable Disease Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said he could not comment on the figures, as he had just returned from abroad.