There have been 59 deaths linked to acute watery diarrhea, which has affected more than 81,000 people nationwide since November 2009, the Ministry of Health said yesterday. In the same period, 423 cases of cholera have been confirmed, as well as one death from the disease, according to the ministry and World Health Organization.
“The disease [acute watery diarrhea] can kill quickly,” said Dr Sok Touch, director of the communicable disease department at the Health Ministry, noting that dehydration resulting from AWD can lead to death within four to five hours if untreated.
“We want to say [to patients] please come quickly to the health center because it might not be normal diarrhea,” Dr Touch said yesterday.
Minor outbreaks of AWD have been contained in Kandal, Kratie, Kompong Cham, Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces among others, Dr Touch said, noting that identified cases do not necessarily signal an outbreak.
Dr Touch said that acute watery diarrhea cases had increased compared to last year, but he did not have comparative figures on hand.
Laboratory confirmations of cholera cases, a symptom of which is acute watery diarrhea, from November to May 25 were made across numerous provinces including Ratanakkiri, Phnom Penh and Kompong Cham, said Dr Nima Asgari, public health specialist at the WHO.
“Any number of cholera cases are a cause for concern…. But if you look at the number dying it is very low,” Dr Asgari said. The ongoing outbreaks in Cambodia this year have been a mixture of acute watery diarrhea and cholera, he said.
In Ratanakkiri province, 20 people died from acute watery diarrhea out of more than 640 falling ill to the disease since April 10, said Dr Hoy Vannara, provincial head of the communicable disease control department, adding that the 20 deceased were not tested for cholera.
“We suspect the dead people had cholera, because they had very strong watery diarrhea,” Dr Vannara said.
Last week Dr Beat Richner, founder of Kantha Bopha Hospitals, publicized the fact that 290 cholera cases had been confirmed at his hospitals since November. Dr Denis Laurent, assistant to Dr Richner, welcomed the WHO’s release of AWD and cholera data.
“I think it is good…. We will see [if it has an impact],” Dr Laurent said.
Jan Willem Rosenboom, country team leader of the Water Sanitation Program of the World Bank, said he was glad to hear about the release of WHO and Health Ministry statistics.
“Openness is better than silence,” Mr Rosenboom said.
The Health Ministry and WHO last released information on cholera on Feb 12, when they said the number of infected people to date stood at 128 sickened and one death.