By ARKAR MOE and WAI MOE
Residents of a working-class neighborhood in Rangoon say they are worried about their health because an outbreak of diarrhea that has hit the area since last week’s Burmese New Year’s holidays is still not under control.
According to residents of Ward 2 in North Okkalapa Township, medical officials from the Ministry of Health have visited the area, but have so far failed to stem the spread of the disease.
“Most cases have occurred in houses along the banks of Ngamoeyeik Creek,” said a local resident. “Medical staff from the Ministry of Health came, but the disease is still spreading. My family and neighbors are very worried.”
There were unconfirmed reports that the outbreak had claimed the lives of several people living on Metta, Mutida and Marga streets in North Okkalapa.
“On my street, four people were hospitalized. Three of them died,” said a local housewife.
A medical official from North Okkalapa Hospital declined to comment on reports of deaths related to the outbreak or the number of diarrhea patients being treated at the hospital. However, he confirmed that public health officials were dealing with the situation in North Okkalapa.
People in the township said that the United Nations International Children’s Fund had opened two emergency centers in the area to respond to the epidemic. Meanwhile, Rangoon-based journalists also reported an increase in cases of diarrhea in Thaketa and Thanlyin townships since the New Year’s festival.
The Ministry of Health has not yet released any information about the outbreak, but yesterday it issued a warning in two Burmese-language state-run newspapers instructing people to take precautions against diarrhea and cholera by avoiding food exposed to flies and boiling water before drinking it.
Authorities also ordered the closure of roadside food stalls in areas hit by the disease, according to journalists.
Although the government has not yet announced the outbreak, prices of medicines for diarrhea and cholera have already jumped in response to increased demand. According to a drugstore owner in Rangoon, a small pack of mineral salts that was just 410 kyat (around US$ 0.40) before the New Year now costs more than 500 kyat.
According to factory workers, some factories in Rangoon have told employees who live on North Okkalapa’s Phone Gyi Road, one of the areas most affected by the outbreak, not to come to work.