AN outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea cases in Prey Veng provincial prison has stricken 63 inmates, five of whom are in serious condition, the country’s top prison official said yesterday.
One inmate died of the illness late last week after being taken to hospital, but Heng Hak, director of the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons, said yesterday that many of the sick prisoners were recovering.
“In Prey Veng prison, only one prisoner has died because of diarrhoea, while the number of inmates with diarrhoea has increased to 63,” Heng Hak said.
“Only five patients are in serious condition, while the others are only slightly ill because they received medical treatment on time.”
He added that he was concerned the inmates might be sick with cholera.
Nou Sophal, technical director of the Prey Veng Health Department, said yesterday that he did not know whether tests were being run for cholera.
A report released by the rights group Licadho last week warned that Cambodia’s prisons could be the most overcrowded in the world in fewer than 10 years unless steps are taken to reduce inmate totals.
Overcrowding exacerbates poor hygiene and contributes to the spread of illnesses such as diarrhoea.
The outbreak in Prey Veng marks at least the third time since May that prison officials have sought intervention from health officials to address a diarrhoea outbreak.
In May, Pursat provincial prison saw 54 inmates fall ill, Phun Chhin, a prison researcher for Licadho, said yesterday. He added, though, that the situation in the facility had since improved.
“It is better for the present time. Recently the prisoners haven’t encountered [diarrhoea] again after they improved their sanitation and started drinking boiled water,” he said.
Earlier this month, officials at Preah Sihanouk provincial prison sent five inmates to hospital after 10 came down with severe vomiting and diarrhoea, an outbreak that was also attributed to poor sanitation.