Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Cholera outbreak in northern Iraq could spread south

(AP) -- A cholera outbreak in northern Iraq has so far been limited to three provinces but could spread south, a Health Ministry official said Wednesday. Since the disease broke out in mid-August, 10 people have died and some 700 others have been confirmed with cholera, said Adel Muhsin, the Health Ministry's inspector general. Another 11,000 are suffering from such symptoms as severe diarrhea and vomiting, Muhsin said.
Cholera is a gastrointestinal disease that is typically spread by drinking contaminated water and can cause severe diarrhea that in extreme cases can lead to fatal dehydration. Worst hit has been the city of Sulaimaniyah, in the province of the same name, which has seen 4,600 cases of diarrhea and 300 cases of cholera, said Sherko Abdullah, the head of the regional health ministry department. Nine of the 10 deaths have been in the city, he said. It has also been reported in the northern provinces of Irbil and Tamim.
"No new cases have been discovered yet in other parts in Iraq and it is not impossible this will happen, but we are taking steps to contain and prevent the disease from spreading to other areas," Muhsin said. Last week, United Nations Development Program official Paolo Lembo said the outbreak was caused by the "inadequacy of the water supply system and deteriorated infrastructure" of the area.
Medical teams are regularly testing drinking water in Baghdad and other areas, and the Health Ministry is working to provide chlorine to drinking water plants, which can kill the bacteria responsible for cholera. "The more we pay attention to the drinking water regarding chlorine, the more we prevent an outbreak of this disease elsewhere," Muhsin said.
Abdullah said the number of new cases has been slowing now that the problem has been identified with the water, and that measures are being taken to fix the situation. The World Health Organization said this week that all public water supply systems in the affected districts have been chlorinated by 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," the WHO said. The health agency did not recommend any special restrictions on travel or trade to or from affected areas.

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