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Food-Borne Illness, Cholera Remain Concerns

Cambodia continues to experience a prolonged hot season, and health experts remain concerned about severe illness or fatalities resulting from diarrhea.

“Your body can lose a lot of fluids and salts when you have very loose, watery stool,” Taing Tek Hong, a Florida-based physician, told “Hello VOA” on Thursday. “And it is important to replenish them. You need to drink plenty of fluids.”

He said dehydrated people may need to drink oral rehydration solutions that contain carbohydrates and electrolytes. You can use regular soda or soft drinks to replace water, he said.

Taing Tek Hong also said the rotavirus disease is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children worldwide and is responsible for the deaths of children in developing countries.

A lack of sanitation or access to clean water can encourage the infection in children before age five, he said.

“In young children, rotavirus disease is characterized by diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and severe dehydration,” he said. “Death is caused by dehydration, not by the virus itself. Rotavirus disease can be treated with zinc tablets. Vaccination offers the best [solution] for preventing severe rotavirus disease.”

Along with watery diarrhea, Cambodians are worried about cholera, with several outbreaks occurring this year.

“Specific symptoms of cholera include sudden and large amounts of watery diarrhea and vomiting,” Taing Tek Hong told a caller. “The stool has a characteristic ‘rice-water’ appearance—grey—and a mild fishy smell. Other symptoms can occur such as thirst, weakness, coma and death. Fever is not a symptom of cholera.”

A simple home remedy of water, salt, sugar and ground charcoal can help rehydrate people with severe diarrhea, he said, following the suggestion of another caller.

One teaspoon of salt and eight teaspoons of sugar can be added to one liter of clean water, along with ground charcoal, he said, which can absorb toxins.

Treatment can include antibiotics, IVs and the replenishment of liquids.

Causes come from germs that infect contaminated food and water, allowing infection of many people through a single source. Microbes can be found in undercooked meat or unwashed food.

Illness can be prevented through hand-washing prior to food preparation, before eating and after using the toilet. Trash should not be thrown in the river, he said.