PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — At least three townships in Irrawaddy Division have been hit this month by an outbreak of diarrhea that is being blamed on contaminated drinking water.
Residents of Pathein, Kangyidaunt and Ngapudaw townships have been affected. Pathein has reportedly borne the brunt of the outbreak, with at least four urban wards and four village-tracts hard hit.
“Diarrhea is rife in Pathein’s urban wards,” said a volunteer from a social organization in Pathein, the division’s capital city. “We are short of water in the summer and we have to use water from any source available, and the diarrhea is mainly due to drinking dirty water, because [people] do not boil and chlorinate the water before drinking.”
More than 300 diarrhea patients have received medical treatment at People’s Hospital in Pathein since April 1, and over 270 have been discharged after recovering. At present, 54 people are receiving treatment at the hospital, its medical superintendent Dr. Tin Maung Nyunt told The Irrawaddy.
“We are giving free medical treatment to 54 patients. They are from different places like Pathein, Ngwe Saung, Kangyidaunt and Ngapudaw. It is not an epidemic and none of the patients is [critically ill],” said the medical superintendent.
Pathein District, which all three townships fall within, began seeing a trickle of patients complaining of diarrhea since the end of February, but the number of such admissions rose significantly in April.
The Pathein Division Health Department is providing medical treatment in the field while undertaking educative programs, said an official from the department.
“For the time being, we are making field trips to villages to provide medical treatment, chlorinating wells and lakes, and educating people,” he said.
Social organizations in Pathein are getting behind the department’s efforts, with plans to also hold public health talks in urban wards.
“We’ll also distribute water purification tablets and mineral salts for free. We’ll launch the educative talks at No. 4 Ward tomorrow [Tuesday],” said Maung Maung Shwe, executive of the Mitta Yeik social organization in Pathein.
The Health Ministry has called for precautionary measures to lessen the likelihood of diarrhea, including boiling water or using water purification tablets if it is intended for drinking; practicing a diligent hand-washing regimen; avoiding consumption of flyblown foods; and immediate admission to hospital if symptoms are shown.