Two more cholera cases confirmed

Two more cholera cases have been diagnosed in Baghdad, bringing the number of cases to seven since last week, including a fatality in the south, the Health Ministry said on 7 September.

“So far seven cases have been confirmed since last week: five in Baghdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib, one in its eastern Rasafa side and the seventh was the fatality in Maysan province,” Ihssan Jaafar, director-general of the public health directorate, told IRIN.

Maysan’s fatality was a three-year-old boy. The province is about 350km south of Baghdad.

“Cases... are emerging in southern Iraq, especially in Babil province, but so far no case has been confirmed. They are being treated in their local hospitals. We have received between 15 to 20 diarrhoea samples from Babil in our central laboratories and results will come after 24 or 48 hours,” Jaafar added.

Babil is about 100km south of Baghdad.

Jaafar added that the scarcity of clean water during the scorching summer months had forced more people to drink water from unsafe sources and as long as the scarcity continued, cholera would remain a problem.

”The health ministry is trying to stop the disease from spreading by early diagnosis of infection and distribution of water sterilisation tablets and also through a public awareness campaign, but with the dearth of safe drinking water the disease will stay around,” he said.

The last cholera outbreak was 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 almost 4,200 laboratory-confirmed cases were successfully treated.

Cholera is a gastro-intestinal disease typically spread by contaminated water. It 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.

sm/ar/mw