Sarawak warns of outbreak


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 08 Jun 2003

BY STEPHEN THEN

MIRI: The Sarawak Health and Medical Services Department has warned of a possible outbreak of food poisoning and diarrhoea following a dwindling supply of fresh water in drought-hit regions in the state. 

If the dry spell persists, such an outbreak could become a major problem in settlements that did not get properly treated water, said department director Dr Yao Sik Chi. 

“There will be the threat of food poisoning and diarrhoea in areas where there is a lack of clean water,” he said. 

“These can happen due to lack of sanitation and hygiene,” he said in a telephone interview from Kuching yesterday. 

Native folks in several rural state and parliamentary constituencies have appealed for assistance from the authorities as they needed fresh-water supply for drinking and cooking. 

Two days ago, Marudi state assemblyman Sylvester Entri said the situation was already critical in several longhouses he had visited. 

Dr Yao also warned that drinking water obtained from ground wells could pose a health hazard if the water was not properly treated. 

“Well water must be filtered and boiled before it can be used for human consumption.” 

“Villagers who have water tanks should try to store as much rain water as they can if there is rain,” he said, stressing that rain water was cleaner compared to underground water. 

Asked if the department’s health officers were equipped to contain outbreaks in rural areas, Dr Yao said teams of rural health personnel were currently on their rounds and they were trained to handle any eventualities. 

However, he acknowledged that venturing into the remote areas would be difficult due to the decline in water level in the river tributaries. 

But flying doctors would be able to reach settlements that were accessible by air, he said. 

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