Tuesday, September 11, 2007

World Health Organization: Cholera outbreak grows to 7,000 affected

Above: A soldier from the 73rd Cavalry Regiment holds the gate open for a local woman returning with untreated water from the local canal in the Diyala River valley in mid-August. 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.

Cholera afflicts 7,000 in Iraq, water tested - WHO

Nearly 7,000 people in northern Iraq have been afflicted with cholera in past weeks, and 10 have died from the diarrhoeal disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Fadela Chaib, a spokeswoman for the United Nations agency, said the precise source of the outbreak spanning three governorates -- Sulaimaniya, Kirkuk and Erbil -- was not yet clear, though polluted water was thought to be the cause.

All public water systems in the affected areas have been chlorinated, and samples are being regularly collected and tested to ensure potable water standards are met, she said.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

Cholera Epidemic Confirmed In Iraq

UN agencies have confirmed a cholera epidemic in northern Iraq and placed the whole country on high alert in response to the outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said there have been almost 7,000 cases of cholera reported and 10 deaths in two weeks. Nine of the fatalities were in Al-Sulaymaniyah Governorate, while another person died in the northern city of Kirkuk.

Cholera was confirmed in some 300 laboratory tests. The outbreak was thought to be caused by infected water supplies.

On August 29, the health minister for the northern Kurdistan region, Zryan Othman, warned that the disease could spread to other areas, including Baghdad, if the international community did not offer urgent help.

From RFE

Northern Iraq battles cholera, nearly 7000 cases reported

The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday that Iraqi authorties were dealing with an "epidemic" of nearly 7,000 suspected cholera cases in three northeastern provinces.

Only 290 cases have been confirmed in laboratory tests, but WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said the agency considered all cases of acute watery diarrhoea should be considered as carrying the "vibrio cholerae" bacteria.

At the end of August, authorities in Sulaimaniyah had reported 2,000 suspected cases and six deaths, while the WHO said another source was found in Kirkuk.

Chaib said Tuesday that six laboratory confirmed cases were also reported in Erbil.

"It is unclear what is the cause of the epidemic," Chaib told journalists. "There is some evidence in Sulaimaniyah... that polluted water on which the local people were forced to rely on may have been to blame, and in Kirkuk a cracked water pipe."

"We are confident that it can be contained," she told journalists.

Read the rest at the Times of India

Cholera in Iraq

Between 23 August and 6 September 2007, the cumulative number of cases of acute watery diarrhoea reported from five out of eleven districts of Sulaymaniyah Governate stands at 3,182 including 9 deaths (case fatality rate, CFR: 0.3%). Of these reported cases, Vibrio cholerae has been laboratory confirmed in 283 stool specimens.

During the period from 29 July to 2 September 2007, the health authority of Kirkuk Governate reported a total of 3,728 cases of acute diarrhoeal disease including 1 death (CFR: 0.03%). The first index case of cholera, confirmed by laboratory test, was reported from Kirkuk Governate on 14 August 2007. Most recently, six laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera were reported from Erbil Governate.

The Government of Iraq has mobilised a multi-sectoral response to the outbreak. A high-level National Committee on Cholera Preparedness and Outbreak Response has been established. The provincial health authorities of Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Erbil Governates have initiated a number of public health control measures to contain the outbreak, including risk assessment, improving water safety and sanitation, strengthening the surveillance system for diarrhoeal disease, improving coordination and information flow, standardising clinical case management, mobilising medical and other essential supplies, and implementing social mobilisation and health education campaigns. All public water supply systems in the affected districts have been chlorinated by the provincial authorities. In addition, water samples from the public water supply sources are being collected and tested routinely to ensure they meet potable water safety standards.

WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a number of non-governmental organisations including the International Medical Corps (IMC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF - France) are supporting the Ministry of Health and local health authorities in ongoing response operations.

In controlling the spread of cholera WHO does not recommend any special restrictions to travel or trade to or from affected areas.

From WHO

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WHO: Cause of cholera outbreak unknown

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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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