Cholera reported in Vietnam's diarrhoea outbreak

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HANOI, Nov 6 (Reuters) Some cases of cholera have been confirmed among nearly 800 people suffering severe diarrhoea in northern Vietnam, health officials said today.

The state-run newspaper Hanoi Moi (New Hanoi) quoted Health Minister Nguyen Quoc Trieu as saying ''cholera bacterium is emerging in eight out of 11 infected localities''.

No deaths have been reported but, in the past week, people suffering from diarrhoea have been taken to hospital in 11 provinces and cities, including Hanoi. The capital of about 4 million people has the highest number of patients, media reports said.

The Health Ministry said 15 per cent of the nearly 800 cases reported so far were positive for the cholera bacterium.

Health authorities were urgently isolating infected areas and putting patients in quarantine, officials said.

The ministry said contaminated locally made shrimp paste or a raw fish and vegetable combination and fermented pork roll were the likely cause of the diarrhoea.

The US embassy in Hanoi said in a message sent by e-mail to US citizens in the developing Southeast Asian country that ''the Government of Vietnam has confirmed a growing outbreak of acute diarrhoea ... some of the cases have been confirmed as cholera.'' The message came with guidelines from the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the risks of exposure.

Vietnam has been fighting various diseases this year, including dengue fever that has infected nearly 60,000 people, killing 50.

Bird flu has killed four people and authorities have also reported ''blue ear'' disease in pigs.

At its most acute, cholera causes sudden watery diarrhoea that can lead to death by severe dehydration and kidney failure.

The World Health Organisation in Vietnam said the UN agency had offered technical support to investigate.

''We have been informed about severe acute diarrhoea,'' spokeswoman Dida Connor said. ''We haven't had any confirmation of cholera.'' WHO describes cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingesting the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Transmission occurs through direct faecal-oral contamination or through eating or drinking contaminated water and food.

REUTERS SS SSC1502

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