Hundreds of Thousands of Possible Cases Linked to Polluted Water Source in Huangchuan County

Since mid-June, Huangchuan County of Henan Province in China has seen a sharp rise in diarrhea cases, exceeding the capacity of local hospitals and causing many pharmacies to run out of medication. Despite initial claims that the increased diarrheal incidence was simply due to humid weather, dirty food, and aging water plant facilities, officials have since admitted that the tap water was contaminated from its unclean water source in the heavily polluted Xiaohuanghe River. Although the county stopped using this river as a water source four years ago as a result of its heavy pollution, a recent drought that dried up the previously used reservoirs forced the county to return to pulling water from the river using a water plant built in 1979 and had been out of use since 2008. Residents describe their tap water as “disgusting…yellow-black, and sometimes had dead mosquitoes…in it.” Recently, it was discovered that duck farms scattered along the river had been dumping duck excrement and dead animals directly into the river. While 294 cases have been reported in this period, it is believed that some 100,000 individuals may have been sickened by the dirty drinking water. This discrepancy is partially due to failure to report many cases seen at local clinics. One physician reported that many patients have long-standing post-cure symptoms such as nausea and flatulence. While no one may know just how many people became ill, it appears that the number of new cases each day have slowly begun to decline.

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