Tuesday, September 04, 2007

WHO: Cause of cholera outbreak unknown

Above: An Iraqi soldier washes himself in a canal near a local water pump station in Suwayrah in July. Cholera is a severe diarrheal disease caused by bacteria ingested in contaminated water or food. In its most severe forms, cholera is one of the most rapidly fatal illnesses known: A healthy person may become hypotensive within an hour of the onset of symptoms and may die within 2-3 hours if no treatment is provided. Death is by dehydration through massive diarrhea.

The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday thousands of people had fallen ill with cholera in northern Iraq, but the cause of the outbreak had not been identified.

"The source of infection is very unclear so far," said Claire Lise Chaignat, head of the United Nations agency's global task force on cholera control.

She said the northern Iraqi province of Sulaimaniya had recorded a "three- to four-fold increase" in acute watery diarrhoea -- cholera's main symptom -- between Aug. 23 and Sept. 2. There have been 2,930 cholera cases and 9 related deaths in Sulaimaniya over that 11-day period, she said.

Nearby Kirkuk first detected cholera on Aug. 19 and has since had 1 death and 2,968 cases of acute watery diarrhoea, Chaignat said. She cautioned it was not yet possible to say whether all those cases were cholera.

Health officials in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region said last week that a Sulaimaniya water treatment plant had tested positive for the bacterium that caused cholera, and that its filters would be cleaned. Polluted well water was also cited as a possible infection source.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

Related Link:
U.S.: Cholera outbreak not caused by contaminated water, unlikely to spread

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Minister: Water treatment plant source of cholera outbreak

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Report: Major cholera outbreak in Sulaimaniya and Kirkuk

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Report: 8 million Iraqis need emergency aid; 43% of Iraqis live in 'absolute poverty'; 28% of kids malnourished; 70% lack adequate water

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Perspective: Thirsty in the land of two rivers

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Doctors warn children, elderly at increased risk for dhydration, cholera and infections this summer