‘Controlled’ Cholera Leaves at Least 15 Dead

At least 15 people have died of cholera in the last two weeks in the crowded border town of Poipet, although health officials believe the outbreak has been contained.

A report filed last week by three disease control experts showed 15 people dead from diarrhea-induced dehydration, said Dr Mean Chhivun, deputy director-general for the Ministry of Health. Another 64 cases are suspected out of 130 total diarrhea victims documented by the Poipet Health Clinic, he said Monday.

Maurits van Pelt, chief of mission for the international NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres, said a recent report by his organization listed 21 people dead and another 98 as suspected cases of the disease.

MSF workers in Poipet first suspected the outbreak in the middle of last month. Cholera was confirmed after stool samples from diarrhea patients were sent to Phnom Penh for examination.

The highly infectious bacteria has surfaced for the first time sin­ce 1992, according to MSF. Cho­lera is a bacteria in contaminated water or food and is carried by internal body fluids, including feces and vomit. Cholera tends to spread quickly in crowded places with poor sanitation, making Poipet a prime target, health experts say.

The Health Ministry’s disease control team believes the virus has been contained, Mean Chhi­vun said, because suspected cholera victims and their families have been treated and people in affected areas trained for proper hygiene.

“According to the investigation team…the cholera will be finished soon,” he said. “There will be no more cholera…in the next few weeks.”

Two workers from the Na­tional Program of Diarrhea and Cholera Control will travel this week to Poipet to monitor the situation. The outbreak prompted health officials to dispatch a team of disease control experts, who tracked the outbreak to the village of Kbal Spien, a few kilometers outside Poipet.

The outbreak is being blamed on untreated water from a local stream because the cases moved downstream to Poipet, Mean Chhivun said.

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