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Gastrointestinal Epidemic Hits Bali's Eastern Province

7 Deaths Among Over 600 Infections Traced to Epidemic as it Enters its Third Week.

(4/5/2008) An epidemic of severe gastrointestinal infections has sent over 600 people to local hospital and clinics, and been blamed for 7 deaths in Bali. The disease – known locally as ”Muntaber," is characterized by vomiting, dehydration and acute diarrhea - is now entering its third week with little sign that the number of new cases is abating since its initial appearance on March 19th. The Bali Post reports that the epidemic, transmitted via E coli bacteria, has crowded area hospitals and health centers with patient coming from local villages and now including medical personnel who treated the first wave of patients. Overwhelmed with patients, medical providers in community health centers in Karangasem have been forced to accommodate patients on make-shift beds lining hallways and public areas of the clinics.

Worrying reports from Karangasem's health officials show the footprint of the disease may be widening, with cases now reported across the regency including the communities of Selat, Bedandem, Duda, Sibetan, Abang. Manggis and Rendang.

To curve the further onslaught of the disease military, police and local health officials have been sent to help chemically sterilize local water supplies while local officials are urging local residents to practice good hygiene by taking care in washing hands and boiling all un-bottled drinking water for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, supplies of chemical cleaners sent earlier to treat water supplies have often time remained unused in many villages, with residents complaining that they have no understanding on how to introduce the treatments to their local water supplies.

Denpasar's General Hospital Extends Assistance

Denpasar's Sanglah General Hospital has dispatched a medical team to Karangasem to help local officials to bring the epidemic under control.

Sanglah officials told the Bali Post that the medical response to the current outbreak has been sufficient but has been thwarted by the lack of good hygiene practice among the local population.

Bali's main hospital has sent a team of 60 health professionals comprised of internists, pediatricians, pathologists, paramedics and medical interns to help Karangasem officials handle patients and distribute printed material to educate locals on better hygiene practice.