Lack of Rain Cited as a Cause of Acute Diarrhea

Provincial health officials yesterday cited the extended hot season and dry weather as factors in the spike in re­ported cases of acute wa­tery diarrhea. However, it re­mained unclear if there was any link between the illness and atmospheric temperatures.

An outbreak this month in Kom­pong Cham province caused 252 infections and two deaths. In Rata­nak­kiri province, outbreaks have caused 530 infections and 15 deaths since April 10. In late March, at least 266 people were in­fected and five killed in Kratie province.

Hoy Vannara, deputy director for Ratanakkiri’s provincial health de­partment; Keang Hong, deputy chief of Kratie provincial hospital; and Kim Souphirun, director of Kompong Cham provincial health department, said the high number of cases were due to the hot weather and lack of sanitation.

“This year, as I have observed, the situation is worse due to the hot weather. It used to be cool about now,” Mr Vannara said.

Jan Willem Rosenboom, Cambo­dia team leader for the NGO Water and Sanitation Program, said there are often seasonal outbreaks of acute watery diarrhea when the weather is dry, adding that rainfall played a greater role than seasonal temperature changes.

“As the dry season progresses the number of people who rely on surface [drinking] water increases and this is more contaminated. Therefore there is a higher risk,” Mr Rosenboom said. “This is coupled with the fact that few people have toilets. So waste enters the environment.”

Nima Asgari, public health specialist at the World Health Organi­zation, said the number of acute watery diarrhea cases had risen this year, but he did not know why.

“It’s a mixed bag,” he said of po­tential causes, noting that the in­creased reporting could be due to increased surveillance by health officials.

Acute watery diarrhea is endemic in the region and is caused by multiple factors depending on the viruses present and sanitation levels, he said. The weather is one speculative explanation given the dry season has lasted a bit longer than usual so people are using contaminated water, Dr Asgari said.



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