About 1,000 sick in Vietnam diarrhoea epidemic

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HANOI, Nov 8 (Reuters) More than 1,000 people are sick with diarrhoea in northern Vietnam, but government officials today said cholera had not been confirmed.

''We are not announcing a cholera outbreak. So far it is still identified as dangerous acute diarrhoea,'' said Ministry of Health spokesman Nguyen Quang Thuan.

He said 1,051 people in several northern provinces and cities had diarrhoea, of which 157 suffered from ''acute dangerous diarrhoea''.

Authorities reported patients in 11 provinces and cities, including Hanoi, which has the highest number.

The government of northern Thanh Hoa province, where the illness was believed to have originated from shrimp paste, on Thursday banned all foods at public ceremonies.

Earlier this week, state-run newspapers, including the Communist Party's Nhan Dan (People), quoted Health Minister Nguyen Quoc Trieu as saying, ''in this epidemic test results showing positive with cholera bacterium account for 15 to 20 percent''.

Officials were also quoted as saying up to four people were suspected of dying in the diarrhoea outbreak.

But today, the health ministry spokesman said: ''Up until today no one has died from the diarrhoea. Tests showed deaths reported this week were not caused by diarrhoea.'' Vietnam has been fighting various diseases this year, including dengue fever that has infected 75,200 people and killed 64. Bird flu has killed four people and authorities have also reported ''blue ear'' disease in pigs.

''We have applied all measures to control the epidemic to discover it early and we will also marshal all resources to eradicate it and to try and stop the epidemic,'' government spokesman Le Dung said at a news briefing.

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

REUTERS MS RN1552

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