07/13/2010, 00.00
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Dengue and cholera hit a Burmese refugee camp on the border between Thailand and Myanmar

In the Mae La centre least 500 Burmese refugees are receiving medical care. Two children and three adults have died since the beginning of the year, but the deaths could increase given precarious hygiene conditions and lack of food and water. The junta denies the plague around the capital and impose a media silence.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In the Mae La refugee camp on the border between Myanmar and Thailand an outbreak of dengue has spread. Mizzima News reports that according to the leaders of the centre at least 500 Burmese refugees are in intensive care, to combat the fever caused by mosquito bites. Meanwhile, Burmese authorities have denied recent reports of an outbreak of plague in the capital and in the Pegu mountains along the eastern border.

The Mae La refugee camp (see photo) is home to about 40 thousand Burmese refugees. It is in the Thai province of Tak, about 60 km from Mae Sot. The area is the most important crossroads between Thailand and Myanmar along the Moei River, and in Burmese territory, the first town across the border is Myawaddy. Most refugees belong to the Karen minority and in the past there have been cases of dengue and cholera epidemics.

Saw Nay San, director of the camp, told Mizzima News that "last year 15 people suffered with the disease" but there was no further intervention to prevent a serious epidemic so "it was not eradicated." "Since the beginning of the year – he underlines - the number of infections has grown and today about 500 people have symptoms of the fever".

Cholera outbreaks have also been reported due to use of contaminated food and water. The first cases occurred in late May and over 300 people have had seek treatment. Compounding the problem, reports a volunteer, is the increase of refugees admitted into the centre, which lacks drinking water and sanitation and is infested with flies.

Meanwhile, the Burmese authorities, through official media, have denied the news reports that have filtered through in recent days of the outbreak of plague in the capital and in areas along the Pegu mountain range. The National Health Department has found no evidence of spread of the bacterium in dead mice. However, sources in Yangon explain that the Burmese authorities announcement is in direct contrast to official statements which have appeared in the last two weeks, warning of a possible outbreaks of plague.

To avoid leaks, the military junta has silenced media from reporting about the discovery of dead rats, suspected of having carried the disease to the gates of the capital Naypyidaw. An epidemiologist who works at the Ministry for Health, quoted anonymously by the newspaper The Irrawaddy, confirmed cases of plague, but the patients were cured after receiving medical treatment.

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