Over 400 confirmed cholera cases so far

The number of confirmed cholera cases has risen to 418 in central and southern Iraq, with six dead since an outbreak began on 20 August, a government spokesman said on 5 October.

“We’ve registered 418 cholera cases in 10 provinces so far: Babil 222 cases, Baghdad 71, Basra 44, Karbala 34, Qadissiyah 30, Anbar seven, Najaf five, Maysan three, and Diyala and Kut one case each," said Ihsan Jaafar, director-general of the public health directorate and spokesman for the ministry's cholera control unit.

Jaafar told IRIN that one new cholera-related death - a child under five in Qadissiyah Province - had been added to the already registered five fatalities: a 10-year-old girl and a 61-year-old man in Babil Province; a three-year-old boy in Maysan; and an adult and child in Baghdad.

He said that of the newly registered cases 228 were males and 190 females; in 159 cases the patients’ ages were 5-70, with all other cases being among the under fives.

About 25km to the west of Qadissiyah’s capital, Diwaniyah, residents of al-Kafi village (population 4,000), where the new death occurred, complained about poor public infrastructure and health services and called for immediate help.

Dependent on river water

“Municipality and health services are not available and we totally depend on the river to get our drinking water. The river, which we share with animals, has caused about 20 cholera cases in our village,” said Sheik Jawad Kadhim Diwan, a tribal leader.

“We call upon the government and the presidential council to save the lives of these people by supplying us with safe drinking water, and to start infrastructure projects as a matter of urgency,” Diwan added.

According to Richard Finkelstein, co-author of Medical Microbiology, the disease occurs primarily during summer, possibly reflecting the increased presence of the organism in the marine environment during these months, as well as the enhanced opportunity for it to multiply in unrefrigerated foods.

The Iraqi Health Ministry and the World Health Organization have blamed the country's rundown water and sanitation infrastructure for the outbreak.

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. Treating drinking water with chlorine and improving hygiene conditions can prevent the disease.

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