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Bangladesh struggles with disease after South Asia floods

by Staff Writers
Dhaka (AFP) Aug 14, 2007
Bangladesh was struggling to cope Tuesday with a major outbreak of disease as officials said some 100,000 people had been admitted to hospital in August after the worst South Asian flooding in decades.

The victims were suffering from diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases, the health department said, with clean water in short supply.

At least 100,000 people had been admitted to hospital, stretching the impoverished country's medical facilities, the department added, but stopped short of calling the situation an epidemic.

"Fifty-three thousand have been affected with diarrhoea. It's not an epidemic but the situation is very serious," said health department chief Shahjahan Biswas, adding that some people had been treated and released.

On Tuesday alone more than 4,000 patients were admitted to hospitals across Bangladesh with diarrhoea, Biswas said.

"We have never seen such a huge number of patients before," said Pradip Bardhan, a doctor at Dhaka's International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research.

"We are struggling to cope with the huge number of patients who are coming every hour," he added.

More than 900 patients were admitted to the diarrhoea centre Tuesday, four times the number the hospital usually treats on a given day, he said.

Officials counted 40 more monsoon-related deaths Tuesday, bringing the toll in Bangladesh since the start of the rains in June to 481.

More than 10 million people remained stranded by the floods in the delta nation, even as some families began to return home.

The monsoon and flooding has killed around 2,300 across South Asia this year. But health experts worry that widespread infectious disease, caused by dirty water, could take more lives.

Officials in the Indian state of Bihar, where flooding affected many millions of people, said medical teams had fanned out to check for disease and provide vaccines to children.

"Fifty doctors' teams are moving out from the health department with logistical support from UNICEF," state relief coordinator Manoj Kumar Srivastava said Tuesday, referring to the UN's agency for children.

He said there were no reports of an epidemic of disease in the state, where flood water partially or totally submerged the homes and farmland of 15 million people.

Thousands were returning home in Bihar, but Srivastava said massive downpours Monday led to new flooding in central and southern areas of the state, leading to new evacuations.

Some previously flooded areas remained cut off, he added, with helicopters and boats still delivering relief supplies.

Heavy rains also hit new parts of India, including the hilly northern state of Himachal Pradesh, causing flooding and landslides.

Some 30 people have died in the state since the weekend, officials told AFP, bringing the toll across India to at least 1,800.

Landslides Monday cut off a rail link in Himachal Pradesh and several key roads.

In Nepal, 105 people have died and 300,000 have been hit by the floods. Officials there said the first priority was to prevent a disease outbreak and feed flood victims.

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Scientists pinpoint what makes West Nile deadly
Paris (AFP) Aug 12, 2007
Even as health officials warn against a West Nile epidemic in the United States this summer, scientists have pinpointed what makes the disease -- unknown in North America a decade ago -- so deadly, according to a study released Sunday.

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