The Iraqi authorities in the self-ruled northern region of Kurdistan are gearing up to face a possible cholera outbreak which last year affected nearly 4,200 people, and caused the deaths of 24 nationwide, a local official said on 6 May.
“We have allocated 25 billion Iraqi dinars (US$20 million) to fight any cholera outbreak in Kurdistan after concerns rose last month when at least 500 patients with diarrhoea and vomiting were admitted to hospitals. So far no cases of the disease have been confirmed,” said Mohammed Sadiq from the regional Health Ministry.
“We remain alert that there could be another outbreak of cholera this season as the factors that cause cholera still exist: a shortage of clean drinking water, high temperatures during the summer and poor sanitation,” Sadiq told IRIN on 7 May.
He said the Kurdistan regional government had started a media campaign to raise awareness about the risks of cholera, how to keep food clean, and how to boil water.
The last cholera outbreak was first detected on 14 August 2007 in the northern city of Kirkuk. It then spread to Sulaimaniyah, Arbil, Dohuk, Tikrit, Mosul, Diyala, Basra, Wasit, Baghdad and Anbar provinces. The hardest-hit provinces were Kirkuk with 2,309 cases, and Sulaimaniyah with 870.
By October 2007, the Iraqi government and UN agencies were saying the outbreak was under control as more than 70 percent of the country's nearly 4,200 laboratory-confirmed cases were being treated successfully.
Cholera is a gastrointestinal disease typically spread by drinking contaminated water and can cause severe diarrhoea which, in extreme cases, can lead to fatal dehydration. It can be prevented by treating drinking water with chlorine and by improving hygiene conditions.