THE number of reported cholera cases has increased by 95 in the last two weeks, a World Health Organisation representative said Monday, though a Health Ministry official described all cases reported since November as “suspected”.
The 95 newly confirmed cholera cases bring the total number since the outbreak began in November to 223, said Dr Nima Asgari, public health specialist at the WHO. He added that the uptick in confirmed cases did not necessarily mean that the disease was spreading more quickly.
“It’s very difficult to say – there has been an increase in reported numbers, but there has also been an increase in testing, so it’s hard to say if there has been a rise in the number of actual cholera cases,” he said.
The Health Ministry and the WHO announced at a joint press conference on February 12 that 128 cholera cases had been confirmed since November. That announcement followed criticism from doctors at a paediatric hospital in Phnom Penh who accused the government of downplaying the threat of cholera and failing to inform the public about the disease.
Prior to the press conference, Health Ministry representatives had declined to confirm the cholera outbreak, though doctors at Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital insisted that the government must have been aware of it because hospitals are legally required to report all cases they record.
Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, on Monday again declined to say that any cholera cases had been confirmed since November.
“There have been 223 suspected cases of cholera that have been reported. They have not been confirmed,” Ly Sovann said Monday, adding that the ministry would convene a meeting on Thursday to discuss the current state of the spread of acute watery diarrhoea cases along with diseases including A(H1N1) influenza, or bird flu, and A(H5N1), or swine flu.
Ly Sovann said the government was taking sufficient measures to prevent the spread of diarrhoea.
“The Ministry of Health keeps educating and broadcasting through the media to all people to protect themselves from having diarrhoea or cholera by boiling water and eating good food – and especially that they have to go to a health centre or hospital when they have diarrhoea,” he said.