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Nearly 50 Monks Ill in Mass Food Poisoning

Forty-eight monks fell ill with food poisoning Sunday and were recovering in two separate hospitals Wednesday, possibly after ingesting insecticide, hospital officials said.

The monks, from the Wat Koh Krabay pagoda in Kandal province, suffered upset stomachs and diarrhea following a ceremony hosted by Cambodian-Americans on a visit, Teng Soeurn, head of Preah Kosamak hospital in Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer.

Twenty-three monks were treated at Preah Kosamak, and another 25 were treated at the Cambodia-Soviet Friendship Hospital, also in Phnom Penh. All 48 were recovering, the doctors said.

The mass poisoning came amid worries of continued outbreaks of cholera. At least six villagers died and 53 were hospitalized in a cholera outbreak in Kratie province last week.

Clinical examinations of the monks’ stool discounted that disease, Teng Soeurn said, adding that the monks could have died without treatment.

“It is a different condition from cholera, which is contagious from one [person] to another,” he said. “Food poisoning is not contagious one to another.”

Food poisoning can occur in unhygienic conditions, but the monks may also have eaten toxic vegetables in their meal.

“All the monks ate Vietnamese noodles with salad and insecticide, and then all the monks got stomach aches and severe diarrhea, but it is not cholera,” said Say Sengly, head of the Cambodia-Soviet hospital.

At least some of the monks had gone home, he said.