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Health Ministry confirms cholera cases

[Iraq] Basra cholera victims.
There have been 418 cholera cases in 10 provinces of Iraq since 20 August (IRIN)

At least five cholera cases have been confirmed in Baghdad and the southern province of Maysan, due to soaring temperatures and rundown water plants, the Health Ministry said on 2 September.

[Read this report in Arabic]

“Four cases have been confirmed in Baghdad and the fifth one has been confirmed in Maysan province. Of those, three are children younger than 10 years and the others are adults,” Ihssan Jaafar, general director of the Health Ministry’s general health directorate, told IRIN.

“Only one death has been registered among these cases so far and that was a three-year-old boy in Maysan, while the rest of the cases are still under treatment,” Jaafar added.

Maysan is about 350km south of Baghdad.

Jaafar blamed the drinking water, which is often contaminated by sewage due to rundown sewage systems and water treatment plants, forcing poor residents to rely on rivers or stagnant water.

“All these cases have been registered in areas where network pipes are either ageing or do not exist. The disease [cholera] is typically spread by contaminated water and high temperatures and there is a higher risk when rivers are stagnant and wells low,” he told IRIN.

The new cases have spread panic among residents in southern Iraq, prompting local health officials to issue a warning.

“We warned all the residents to go to any nearby hospital or medical centre when they have diarrhoea and also we urged those in the affected areas to take water tablets from these centres,” said Zaml Shia’a, the general director of Maysan health directorate.

“Tests on drinking water in some areas proved that the water is contaminated and can’t be used by human beings, especially in the suburbs where the death occurred,” Shia’a told IRIN.

The last cholera outbreak was 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. Hardest-hit were Kirkuk with 2,309 cases and Sulaimaniyah with 870.

At least 14 deaths were reported, according to Health Ministry figures.

By October 2007, the Iraqi government and UN agencies said the outbreak was under control as more than 70 percent of the country’s nearly 4,200 laboratory-confirmed cases were successfully treated.

Cholera is a gastrointestinal disease typically spread by 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.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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