Dr Beat Says Army Could Help In Containing Cholera Cases

Dr Beat Richner, founder of the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospi­tals, yesterday called for military assistance and international intervention to fight the ongoing outbreak of cholera cases.

Dr Richner said that troops could be used to disinfect houses in affected areas, a process that should be carried out up to three times a week to stop the spread of the disease.

“The country should engage the military to clean houses,” Dr Rich­ner said in an interview, adding that Cam­bodia needs support from the in­ternational community to halt the outbreak.

Since the first cholera diagnosis in 10 years at one of his hospitals in November, 290 more cases of the disease have been confirmed, Dr Richner said.

“These results have been given to the government day by day,” he said, noting they show measures so far have not been effective against its spread.

Cases of both cholera and acute watery diarrhea, which has the same symptoms and is treated the same as cholera, have sickened hundreds of people in Ratanakkiri, Kratie and Kompong Cham province since late last year. Some 16 people have died in Ratanakkiri, five in Kratie and two in Kompong Cham.

Ministry of Health Secretary of State Heng Taykry said yesterday that the situation is under control and health officials are winning the battle in preventing new infections.

“We work hard to help patients. If we don’t work then thousands of peo­ple would probably die,” Dr Tay­kry said.

Although the Health Ministry has found some cholera cases, it will not disclose the number, Dr Taykry said, adding that using the word cholera, which has been shunned in favor of acute watery diarrhea, would scare the public.

“We have cholera cases, but we don’t want to frighten the public,” he said.

Dr Nima Asgari, public health specialist at the World Health Orga­nization, said whether the Health Ministry publicizes cholera cases or not does not change the situation because cholera and acute watery diarrhea are prevented and treated in the same way.

“The Ministry has done an awful lot—as soon as a case is detected, staff go there,” Dr Asgari said.

Outbreaks of acute watery diarrhea have so far been contained by provision of treatment involving rehydration and education about sanitation, hygiene and purifying drinking water, he said.


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