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Miri, Sibu on cholera watch list


KUCHING: THIRTY-TWO new cases were detected on Saturday bringing the total number of people infected with cholera in Bintulu to 232.

However, Assistant Minister for Public Health Dr Jerip Susil said the outbreak was "under control and contained".

He also declared the popular Ramadan bazaar there as "clean" as all the stall owners and their workers had been tested and found to be free of the cholera bacteria.

Health authorities are keeping a surveillance on the larger nearby towns of Miri and Sibu for fear the infection could spread there.

"We are keeping a close watch. So far from the reports that we got, the outbreak is well contained and there were no reports of cases elsewhere in the state," he said yesterday.

The number of people still in Bintulu hospital on Saturday was 41 while another eight were kept in isolation at the National Service training camp in Similajau, a few kilometres outside Bintulu town which had been temporarily turned into a special quarantine centre.

The camp is currently empty as the NS programme is on a break.

On the Ramadan bazaar, he said when the outbreak was reported this month, one of their priorities was to ensure the bazaar was not affected.

"We made all the stall owners and their workers undergo mandatory screening for the cholera bacteria.

"Tests on the samples and swabs taken showed all were negative. None were carrying the cholera bacteria."

He said the stall owners and their workers had to wear special tags to show their customers that they were "clean".

The tags are similar to the ones worn by frontline service staff at the height of the bird flu infection, declaring they had no flu or fever.

He said those who were "clean" but failed to wear the tag when on duty could have their stalls shut down.

"The health officers have been ordered to be strict on this as we do not want to compromise the cleanliness of the bazaar."

The source of the July 14 outbreak had been traced to the contaminated waters of Sungai Kemena.

Most of those who were infected were participants of a regatta from two villages and a longhouse -- Kampung Jepak here, Kampung Hilir in Sebauh and Rumah Gawan in Sungai Sebauh -- who had come to Bintulu to take part in the races.

While in Bintulu, they had lived in temporary shelters near the river and had drawn water from the river to take their bath, do their washing and cooking.

On their return home, the regatta participants had infected their villages and longhouse and eight other villages and longhouses near them.

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