Cholera is suspected as the cause of an outbreak of acute watery diarrhea in Kompong Cham province this week, a health official said Thursday.
Watery diarrhea has spread rapidly since Tuesday in four villages in Stung Trang district’s Mesar Chrey commune, sparking fears of a cholera outbreak, according to Lon Chanraksmey, deputy director of the provincial health department.
Twenty-two more people were infected before noon Thursday, bringing the number of infections commune-wide to 184, with two deaths, Mr Chanraksmey said.
“We call it watery diarrhea suspected to be cholera,” he said. “We cannot call it cholera because we are waiting on the laboratory results.”
The symptoms of acute watery diarrhea and cholera are the same. Samples taken from Kompong Cham villagers have been sent to the Ministry of Health. The results are due within five days, but will not necessarily be made public, he said.
“There is a national level group to announce the result, but I don’t know whether they will tell the public,” Mr Chanraksmey said.
The ministry was reluctant to identify a watery diarrhea outbreak earlier this year as cholera because it did not want to cause panic, given that treatment and prevention are the same for both diseases.
Dr Nima Asgari, a public health specialist at the World Health Organization, said the ministry would not have enough data at this point to identify the outbreak’s cause. But whether or not cholera is confirmed, “the action would be the same as what they are doing at the moment,” Dr Asgari said.
Meanwhile, an outbreak of watery diarrhea in Kratie province’s Chet Borei district that began in March and killed five people, with two cholera cases confirmed, has subsided, Kratie provincial health department director Chhneang Sovutha said Thursday. More than 100 people in the province have come down with watery diarrhea this month, but the distribution of cases is random and does not indicate another outbreak, he said.
(Additional reporting by Alice Foster)