A Year On, Officials Say Cholera Cases Stopped

A case of cholera was diagnosed a year ago last Thursday, marking the beginning of a series of outbreaks of acute watery diarrhea and cholera across Cambodia.

Amid nationwide incidences by June, when the Health Ministry estimated there had been 4,000 suspected cholera cases resulting in 50 to 60 deaths since November, fears persisted that the waterborne virus could spread out of control.

However, government and World Health Organization officials say that now the situation has calmed.

“Now we have no more cases. Just simple diarrhea,” Ly Sovann, deputy director of communicable disease control at the Health Ministry, said Thursday.            The drop was a result of efforts to educate the public about hygiene and the deployment of response teams to affected areas, Dr Sovann said.

From November last year until Oct 12 there were 611 laboratory-confirmed cases and one death, the ministry’s communicable disease control website said. In mid-October, thirteen provinces still had areas where acute diarrhea remained high after confirmed cholera cases.

Early this year, the ministry remained mum on cholera outbreaks and only referred broadly to acute watery diarrhea. It took until mid-February for the ministry to announce 128 laboratory-confirmed cases and one death.

A roughly fifty percent rise over 2009 in acute diarrhea, which peaks during the dry season when water sources dry up, was revealed in June and attributed to late rains.

Dr Nima Asgari, WHO public health specialist, said yesterday that the cholera issue had subsided completely, with cases dwindling over the last few months and no diagnosis reports for weeks.

Declines are “generally because firstly your identification of outbreaks becomes earlier and you deal with the situation faster,” Dr Asgari said. “Secondly as rains increase, you lose the contamination of water sources.”

Although cholera remains endemic to Cambodia, the disease was not expected to hit the country as hard in the coming year, he said. “Last year was an unusual year. There was way too much,” he said, noting that he could not explain the spike, which peaked around April, but that a drier climate and better surveillance may have contributed.

In Ratanakkiri province, acute diarrhea affected more than 2,000 people, leading to 39 deaths this year, said Hok Sochanda, a provincial team leader for NGO Health Unlimited, which supports the health department there. “It has calmed down now,” he said, noting that during the rainy season contaminated water lessened and residents learned to treat drinking water. “There are no more outbreaks.”


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