The number of confirmed cholera cases nationwide since November has now risen above 500, according to new statistics posted to the Health Ministry’s communicable disease control department website.
Although ministry officials could not be reached for comment yesterday, the statistics show that 501 people have tested positive for cholera across 18 provinces between November and July 27, while one person has died.
New cholera cases have been emerging for more than six months, but they are in relatively small clusters and not part of one large outbreak, said Dr Nima Asgari, public health specialist at the World Health Organization.
“We are seeing a few cases here and there…. The outbreaks have been stopped from becoming a much bigger,” Dr Asgari said, noting that a large escalation in the number of cholera cases is unlikely at this point.
Still, any diagnosis of cholera is a cause for concern and should prompt response, said Jan-Willem Rosenboom, country team leader of the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program.
“I call five hundred a significant number, and obviously even if it is only ten cases something must be done to address this,” Mr Rosenboom said.
Dr Sin Somuny, executive director of Medicam, said yesterday that the government has improved its response to cholera since the disease first began to break out in November, mobilizing rapid response teams and setting up a hotline for patients to call.
“The situation has also improved on the government side,” Dr Somuny said. “Previously they did not even say that it was cholera and used to just say acute watery diarrhea.”
Cholera still poses a significant threat to Cambodia and, at least in Ratanakkiri province, the disease is becoming endemic, said Alex Marcelino, program manager for NGO Health Unlimited.
“It is not only an emergency coming from time to time, but something we are seeing to be endemic and which keeps reoccurring,” Mr Marcelino said.
Some donors only release funds in an emergency situation, which makes it difficult for NGOs to fill the gap in operation costs facing the Ratanakkiri provincial health department, he said. Mr Marcelino called on the government to make an official statement about the extent of the cholera outbreaks.
“We cannot access resources unless a more forthright declaration is given by the national government,” he said.