Dozens of people with suspected typhoid have been hospitalized in the southern Kyrgyz province of Batken, a health official told IRIN on Tuesday, citing a lack of safe potable water as the root cause of the outbreak.
"As of Tuesday, 124 people have been hospitalized in Batken province with suspected typhoid. In 64 cases the diagnosis has been confirmed," Inna Chernova, senior epidemiologist at the epidemiological department, reported from the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.
According to the Kyrgyz Health Ministry, the first cases were detected in late May and early June, while in the second, third and fourth weeks of June higher numbers were registered with up to 15 people being admitted to health facilities each week.
Of the 64 confirmed cases, 51 were from the Kyzylbel village, not far from the provincial capital, Batken, and 12 from Batken town itself.
But the number of cases began to slow recently. "The intensity of the outbreak is now diminishing, with only a few patients, two to three, being detected a week," Chernova said.
In the first six months of 2003 there were eight cases of typhoid in the area, while some 70 cases were registered in the second half of that year.
The health official cited contaminated water as the main cause of the problem. Local people were working in the fields using water from irrigation ditches contaminated by Batken town's sewage and some apparently drank it, she explained.
"There is a severe lack of safe drinking water in the area. The piped water system is not good either, working for only two to three hours a day," the epidemiologist noted.
In an effort to tackle the issue, health teams were distributing anti-typhoid medicine among the local population along with vaccinating them against the disease and carrying out an awareness raising campaign, calling on each household in the area.
"They explain that they should drink only boiled water and follow hygiene rules. Health workers have been in each house many times, but there are still cases of the disease," she said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), typhoid is contracted when people eat food or drink water infected with Salmonella typhosa. Generally recognized by the sudden onset of sustained fever, severe headache, nausea and severe loss of appetite, typhoid is sometimes accompanied by a hoarse cough and constipation or diarrhea. Fatality rates of 10 percent can be reduced to less than 1 percent with appropriate antibiotic therapy. Paratyphoid fever shows similar symptoms, but tends to be milder, with the fatality rate much lower.
The annual global occurrence of typhoid fever is estimated at 17 million cases, with about 600,000 deaths. Some strains of Salmonella typhosa are resistant to antibiotics.
IRIN, July 13, 2004