More than 150 cholera cases in Vietnam -state media

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HANOI, Nov 10 (Reuters) A cholera outbreak in northern Vietnam has affected more than 150 people, the first such spate of cases in three years, state-run newspapers reported today.

The ruling Communist Party's daily Nhan Dan (People) quoted Health Minister Nguyen Quoc Trieu as saying 1,378 people have suffered acute diarrhoea, 159 of whom tested positive for cholera bacteria.

The reports did not say whether anyone had died in an epidemic of acute diarrhoea since October 23 in 13 provinces and cities out of 64 in Vietnam, where the last widespread cholera outbreak was in 2004.

Health ministry officials could not be reached for comment today.

Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper quoted Nguyen Tran Hien, head of the National Hygiene and Epidemiology Institute, as saying the epidemic ''erupted at the same time in many places, progressing rapidly and with symptoms typical of cholera''.

He said the diarrhoea epidemic had passed its peak and the number of patients was falling in Hanoi.

''But it is difficult to confirm this trend in other cities and provinces,'' Hien said.

Cholera is transmitted by contaminated water or food.

Hien said all patients during the first week of the epidemic ate shrimp paste, but more fell sick later without touching the sauce.

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

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.

Reuters JT GC1108

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