LABORATORY tests have shown that an outbreak of diarrhoea that affected 252 people and killed two in Kampong Cham last week was not caused by cholera, a provincial health official said Sunday.
Yin Vibol, deputy director of the Chamkar Leu district referral hospital in Kampong Cham, said tests conducted by the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh had shown that cholera was not responsible for last week’s outbreak.
“The institute has informed us that it was just a simple diarrhoea disease and not cholera,” he said. “We have already managed to control the situation of the epidemic, but still more and more people have been infected.”
Last week’s fatalities brought the number of diarrhoea-related deaths in the provinces of Kampong Cham, Ratanakkiri, Kratie and Stung Treng to a total of 34 so far this year, according to reports from health officials, who all said that cholera was not to blame in most cases.
Sourn Vuthy, deputy director of the Stung Treng Health Department who monitors communicable diseases, said that there had been 166 reported cases of diarrhoea and seven deaths in the province since an outbreak began there in March.
He said laboratory tests showed that the outbreak had not been caused by cholera, but added that reports of stomach ache and diarrhoea were still coming in.
Officials from both Kratie and Ratanakkiri acknowledged that cholera had been detected in their provinces, but said that the disease had been contained very quickly and affected only a few people.
Chhneang Sovutha, director of the Kratie Health Department, said 300 cases of diarrhoea and 10 deaths had been reported in the province since an outbreak began in March, but recent laboratory tests did not detect the presence of cholera. Tests showed in late March that five deaths had been caused by cholera.
Referring to those who had fallen ill recently, he said, “They had diarrhoea because they drank bad water from dirty places like potholes when they went into jungles,” he said.
Tha Bunthak, deputy director of Ratanakkiri’s Health Department, said there had been 525 reported cases of stomachache and diarrhoea and 15 deaths in the province since January.
“According to the result of the tests that we have just received, it was not cholera,” he added. “It was just simple diarrhoea, which has been caused by the drinking of unclean water, and the lack of hygiene among tribal people. We have already educated them to drink boiled water.”
On Saturday, Prime Minister Hun Sen called for all people to improve hygiene practices to protect against diarrhoea.
“The weather is changing very much. It is very hot, and rainfall and lightning have happened and killed people and caused diarrhoea to burst out in some areas,” he said.
“It is time we must be very careful about communicable diseases. The authorities, especially in the health care sector, must pay more attention on the safety of our citizens, especially the problem of using unclean and poor quality water, which is the cause of diarrhoea.”