Iraq declares cholera outbreak: ‘We expect the number of cases to increase within the coming days’
The Iraqi Ministry of Health declared a cholera outbreak this weekend after a large number of acute watery diarrhea diseases cases were reported from Najaf and Diwaniya governorates and parts of west Baghdad.
Laboratory tests conducted in the central public health laboratory confirmed the presence of Vibrio cholerae subtype 01 Inaba in 38 out of a total of 106 stool samples tested. A cholera task force comprising officials from the Ministry of Health, WHO, and other United Nations partners has been set up to lead the response and coordinate with local health authorities in affected areas to control the disease which can, if not timely controlled, spread rapidly and widely.
“The Ministry of Health has been closely monitoring the situation and the implementation of the country cholera contingency plan has immediately been stepped up. We already started positioning and distributing medicines and other supplies for case management to locations where they are most needed,” said Dr Adela Hamoud, Minister of Health, who added, “We expect the number of cases to increase within the coming days but we are working with WHO and other health partners to manage this situation and contain the spread of the bacteria to other high-risk governorates in the country”.
Field investigation teams and health care providers have been deployed to affected areas to strengthen surveillance, investigation, case findings and standardize case management. Similarly, water authorities at the national and subnational levels have started to take action aimed at improving the quality and safety of water supply in affected areas, through chlorination, periodic monitoring of the quality of water and hygiene promotion.
Although the outbreak is currently localized to a limited number of governorates, there is an urgent need to increase health promotion and education activities, not only within communities across the country but also in settlements with vulnerable populations, such as internally displaced persons whose numbers have now reached a staggering 3.2 million.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days, and produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.
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