Government Mum on Cholera Claims

Dr Beat Richner, founder of the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital, said yesterday that laboratories at his hospital have confirmed 80 cases of cholera since November 2009, adding that he has alerted Health Ministry officials of their findings.

However, Dr Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Ministry of Health’s communicable disease control, would not confirm or deny Dr Richner’s claims.

During an interview, Dr Richner said that in every suspected case of cholera, patients admitted to his hospital are given intravenous fluids and then antibiotics if cholera is confirmed.

“In January, there were 120 suspected cases and 54 were confirmed by our laboratory. And in February so far, 48 suspected cases so far and 19 confirmed cases,” he said.

Dr Sovann referred to Dr Richner’s findings as “his announcement” and declined to say whether or not the findings were confirmed by the Health Ministry.

“I don’t want to talk about this,” he said.

However, Dr Sovann did say that the Health Ministry treats cholera and diarrhea in the same way and that health officials been sent to inform the public about avoiding diarrhea.

“We treat cholera and diarrhea the same way,” Dr Sovann said, adding that focusing on cholera specifically could confuse people.

Dr Nima Asgari, a World Health Organization public health specialist based in Cambodia, said yesterday that the exact number of cholera cases was a Health Ministry matter. He added that regardless of what was causing the symptoms, the first step to curing it is to prevent dehydration with liquids and electrolytes.

More severe cases will require hospitalization for intravenous fluids and the most severe cases will need antibiotics, he added.

“The second step is making sure people don’t transmit it,” Dr Asgari said, adding that people need to be vigilant about hand-washing, boiling water before consuming it and keeping hygienic toilet practices as to not contaminate water sources.

Forty-five people in Kompong Speu province were admitted to hospital on Friday and Saturday with severe diarrhea and vomiting, which the Health Ministry attributed to contaminated water.

Or Vanthen, director of Kompong Speu provincial health department, said yesterday that since the patients were admitted to the provincial hospital with severe diarrhea from Feb 5 to 6, there have been no admissions with the same symptoms.

“Now it is better,” he said. “We are still sending health officials to educate the people and to monitor the situation.”

Dr Richner challenged the Health Ministry’s claim.

“It is not right to blame the people. The water was not the cause of the problem. If it was, we would see this all of the time,” he said.


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