(dpa) - A cholera outbreak that began in mid-March has expanded to 16 provinces throughout Vietnam and infected at least 121 people, health officials said Thursday.
"The situation is dangerous, and the possibility that the outbreak will further expand to other provinces is very high," said Nguyen Huy Nga, director of the Ministry of Heath's Preventive Medicine Department.
Nga said the cause of the outbreak's spread was contaminated water sources, leading to the contamination of food, especially vegetables.
"Many people don't have hygienic toilets, and others defecate into rivers or in the fields, resulting in the spread of the bacteria," Nga said. "It's more difficult to contain the situation in the countryside, where farmers use human feces to fertilize vegetables."
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Health sent an urgent message to provinces nationwide, requiring them to take necessary measures to contain the cholera outbreak.
The message urges provinces to tighten food hygiene, ban unhygienic food shops, and closely monitor infected people.
"The best way to contain the outbreak is to urge people to eat cooked food and water and to use hygienic toilets," said Nguyen Tran Hien, director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.
Late last year, more than 300 people were infected with cholera in an outbreak that expanded to 11 provinces in northern Vietnam, prompting local authorities to ban a popular fermented shrimp paste, which was blamed for half of the cases.
No one reportedly died from the outbreak last year, although health officials warned that dehydration could kill some patients if not treated immediately.
Cholera chiefly spreads through drinking water or eating food contaminated with cholera bacteria.