A sixth villager died Tuesday from a severe case of watery diarrhea suspected to be cholera, three days after an outbreak began in Ratanakkiri’s Lumphat district, officials said. The remoteness of Katoeng village—like other areas in Ratanakkiri affected by acute watery diarrhea and cholera since April—meant that patients did not receive treatment in time, they said.
The 60-year-old man died from dehydration caused by acute watery diarrhea, which has affected 25 villagers and prompted 19 families to flee, Ratanakkiri health department director Sim Khanlai said.
“We consider these cases as cholera…. The symptoms…are the same,” Mr Khanlai said, noting that samples sent from earlier diarrhea outbreaks in O’Chum and Veun Sai districts were confirmed as cholera.
“Diarrhea and cholera are treated in the same way,” Mr Khanlai said, adding that health officials had brought the situation under control. There have been 1,117 diarrhea cases and 29 deaths in Ratanakkiri, since April, Mr Khanlai said.
It is hard to quickly treat patients in Lumphat district because it is so remote, Director of Communicable Disease Control Department Dr Sok Touch said. “The question is how to reach them,” he said.
Pathogens causing acute watery diarrhea include the bacterium vibrio cholerae, which causes rapid dehydration and can lead to death. If vibrio cholerae is detected by laboratory tests, the case is confirmed to be cholera.
The deaths in Katoeng village were probably caused by cholera, because patients experienced very rapid dehydration, WHO medical officer Dr Maria Concepcion Roces said, noting that lack of access to the area meant treatment was not given in time.
“It is not just Ratanakkiri [affected by acute diarrhea and cholera] but a lot of countries in the Mekong region,” Ms Roces said.
“The explosion is from multiple means of transmission,” she added, noting that nationwide this year there have been about 3,000 severe diarrhea cases suspected to be cholera, and about 60 deaths.