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Cholera fears grow in Iraq and Syria

Cholera is mainly spread by water and food contaminated with the bacteria [AFP]

Date of publication: 2 November, 2015

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Analysis: The WHO is vaccinating people against the devastating water-borne disease, as it spreads across Iraq and northern Syria.

A vaccination campaign against cholera got underway in Iraq this weekend to stop the disease spreading, the World Health Organisation has announced.

A total of 1,942 cases have been confirmed to date in Iraq and there have been two deaths, according to the UN's public health agency.

Outbreaks of the disease have been confirmed in 15 of Iraq's 18 governorates, and a suspected case had also been found in northern Syria.

"WHO will begin, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, the oral cholera vaccine treatment, and will use 510,000 [doses] of the global stock pile to ensure that 255,000 internally displaced persons and refugees in the affected areas will receive two doses," WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a press briefing in Geneva.

"While this number of vaccines is not enough to vaccinate everyone, it should, however, be a strategic vaccination to block the path of the disease and prevent further outbreaks," he added.

     A total of 1,942 cases of cholera have been confirmed to date in Iraq and there have been two deaths.


Earlier in October it was reported that cholera in Iraq had affected more than 1,800 and spread to the northern autonomous Kurdish region.

WHO has also received reports of a suspected cholera case in rural Aleppo, northern Syria, which has seen heavy fighting.

The five-year-old boy concerned died before the case could be confirmed.

However, the water network in the area is reportedly chlorinated which will hopefully stop the disease spreading, and health officials have been put on high alert, said the WHO.

Health education is also ongoing in the area, and the WHO has printed 50,000 information brochures for distribution across the country.

Cholera is a bacterial infection of the small intestines that can lead to severe dehydration and death. It is mainly spread by water and food contaminated with the bacteria.

It has a short incubation period of between two hours and five days which can contribute to the explosive pattern of outbreaks.

Effective treatment can be used on 80 per cent of cases, reducing the fatality rate to less than one percent.

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