Thu, Nov 10, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Acute diarrhea the latest threat to quake survivors

AGENCIES , ISLAMABAD AND MUZAFFARABAD, PAKISTAN

Hundreds of earthquake victims in Pakistani Kashmir have acute diarrhea and doctors are investigating whether they are cases of cholera, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.

"In one camp we visited yesterday there were 55 cases of diarrhea and there are so many spontaneous camps that we believe there are hundreds of others," WHO worker Rachel Lavy said in Muzaffarabad.

"Acute watery diarrhea fits very closely with the definition of cholera. That is one of the things it can be," Lavy said, adding however that there were other waterborne diseases that could cause similar types of diarrhea.

"We are treating it as suspicious but we don't have laboratory guidance at this stage," she said.

Acute diarrhea can kill if it is not treated aggressively and immediately, Lavy said.

"It can dehydrate an adult within a few hours," she added. "If you get watery diarrhea you need to treat it aggressively with massive rehydration, isolation, ensuring clean water and sanitation."

But she said that curbing the spread of illness was especially difficult in the cramped conditions of the refugee camps that have sprung up in Muzaffarabad.

"The spontaneous camps are not set up by the government and are not organized so ... water and sanitation are not good," she said.

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