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Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 14:03 UK

Bangladesh diarrhoea 'epidemic'

Boy collects water from a tanker in Dhaka
Bangladesh has recently had unusually high temperatures

Thousands of people are being treated for diarrhoea across Bangladesh as high temperatures mean people are drinking more water which is often unclean.

Health officials warn that more people are likely to need treatment as they consume water in the hottest temperatures for more than 20 years.

They warn that people living in the capital Dhaka are particularly at risk.

They are having to contend with the humidity as well as water shortages, power cuts and overcrowded hospitals.

Heatwave

"We're treating the highest number of patients in the pre-monsoon season during our 45 years in existence," Dr Azharul Islam Khan of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research told the AFP news agency.

"The situation is very grim and reaching epidemic levels in Dhaka and its outskirts. An acute crisis of water and an unusually prolonged heatwave are to blame for such a severe outbreak."

The hospital says that at least 16 people have died of diarrhoea-related illnesses since the beginning of March - and the hospital has treated more than 40,000 patients since then.

Meteorological Office director Sujit Deb Sharma told the BBC that the temperature in Dhaka on Monday was 39.6C, the highest in the city for 35 years.

He said that in the district of Jessore in the south-west of the country, the temperature was 42.3C on Monday, the highest in Bangladesh for 22 years.

Mr Sharma said that a lack of moisture from the Bay of Bengal was contributing to the heatwave, while sub-tropical high pressure was blocking the flow of moisture.

However he said that rain was expected in the next few days.



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