Mystery Sickness Plagues K Cham Villagers

An unknown sickness probably linked to the water supply has killed one farmer and sickened more than 100 villagers in Memot district, Kompong Cham prov­ince, officials said Monday.

Dr Sophal Oum, deputy director-general at the Ministry of Health, said Monday that the disease’s exact nature will not be determined at least until an analysis of the water supply has been completed.

He said the outbreak sickened 112 villagers, 18 of whom were considered in serious condition.

Minutes later, Sovann Heu, a nurse who heads the operational health district, said the sickness had been contained and all the villagers had recovered.

Chheang Am, provincial governor of Kompong Cham, said Mon­day the victims were treated with medicines and serums for their symptoms, which included constipation, shortness of breath and vomiting blood.

“It’s a serious illness,” he said.

Blood samples from the victims have been sent to a laboratory in Indonesia to determine the exact causes. Patients would only be treated for specific symptoms until the cause was known, Sophal Oum said.

Chheang Am said that, for two months, farmers in Chrey village had been using a new herbicide that was being washed by the rain into already suspect wells. In a response to the sickness, he said, villagers had been ordered to boil their water and “get a proper toilet.”

Dong Ram, 34, a farmer, and the only one who has died so far, died July 29, the day his symptoms appeared. The next day, provincial doctors and health officials, as well as a visiting US doctor, went to treat the sick, Chheang Am said.

In response to the disease, prov­incial authorities are taking bids from companies to dig two new wells. World Health Orga­nization officials who monitor the water supply were on leave and could not be reached for comment.


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