(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Death toll rises as cholera spreads

Lack of hygiene is one of the main reasons for cholera outbreaks.
Lourenço Silva/PlusNews

An outbreak of cholera in northern Tanzania has continued to spread, claiming 59 lives over the past two months. Health ministry officials reported 60 new cases last week.

"We have recorded 3,454 cases of cholera in Tanga region during the last eight weeks," Nsachris Mwamaja, a spokesman for the health ministry, said.

He added that the most affected area was in Handeni District, where health officials have attributed the outbreak to ignorance of hygiene practices.

Mwamaja said the government was making efforts to check the spread of the disease to other regions such as Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Coast and the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

"Sufficient supplies of medicines and medical personnel have been sent to the affected areas," he said.

Seif Mpembenwe, Handeni district commissioner, said schools that had been closed because of the outbreak were expected to re-open in November.

"We will continue with sensitization campaigns until the situation improves," he said.

Mpembenwe said residents had been advised to dig and use toilets as well as boil drinking water to prevent cholera, an acute illness characterized by watery diarrhoea. The disease is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae and is spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacteria.

Photo: microbiologybytes
Vibrio cholerae: Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae and is spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacteria (file photo)

Health officials fear that the long rains due now could lead to more cases of cholera if correct hygiene is not observed.

Meanwhile, the country continues its efforts to curb the spread of the H1N1 influenza. At least 1,000 suspected cases have been reported, mostly in the northern district of Mbulu.

Blandina Nyoni, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, said of the suspected cases, 339 had been confirmed from the 985 samples officially tested.

She said the disease had so far caused one death. The government had stepped up preventive measures, including screening centres at entry points and enhancing public education.

"People should not panic," Nyoni said. "Much as we don't have vaccines for swine flu in the country, there are adequate supplies of tamiflu antibiotics that are used in the treatment of swine flu."

The influenza is caused by a viral infection. Its symptoms are similar to those of influenza, such as fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort.

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