The number of cholera cases in Phnom Penh hospitals has risen to 100, causing municipal officials to express worry about a possible outbreak.
“There are not as many people as sick [with cholera] as in the current dengue fever epidemic but it could become as serious if people don’t know how to protect themselves,” said Heng Tai Kry, director of Calmette Hospital.
The rise from 12 reported cases on Aug 1 to the current 100 comes as hospitals are struggling to battle a dramatic rise in dengue hemorrhagic fever cases. The International Federation of the Red Cross reported about 8,700 dengue cases in Cambodia this year and estimates the number could reach 16,000—which would be the highest number ever recorded.
Health officials reached Sunday were unable to give an exact number of deaths caused by cholera in Phnom Penh.
Many of the city’s cholera cases are coming from squatter camps in the Bou Dinh area and Kien Svay district in Kandal province, said Eng Huot, director of the Maternal and Child Health Center and an adviser to the Ministry of Health. But, health officials say, not all cholera sources have been confirmed.
“It’s not just affecting the very poor, it seems to be across the spectrum,” said Dr Gillian Hall of the Sihanouk Hope Hospital.
Cholera is a bacteria that contaminates water or food and is carried by internal body fluids. Symptoms include severe diarrhea and vomiting.
Doctors recommend drinking bottled or boiled water, avoiding shellfish, practicing proper hygiene, and peeling and cleaning all fresh fruits and vegetables well.
The task is to get the word out to distant areas. “I am worried about people who are living in the provinces and don’t understand how to protect themselves,” Eng Huot said. “Cholera could be the next problem disease after dengue for Cambodia’s children.”
An outbreak of cholera last June is the suspected cause of death of more than 20 people in the Thai border town of Poipet, Banteay Meanchey province.