Government Staying Quiet About Hospital’s Cholera Test Results

Founder says 80 cases have been confirmed since November

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 have 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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