Officials in Iraq have announced that the number of cholera cases in the country has risen to more than 120, and that the waterborne disease has spread to southern provinces along the Euphrates River.
On Wednesday, the Iraqi Health Ministry said at least 121 cases had been confirmed in the country and that most of the new cases came from the central province of Babil, which lies 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of the capital, Baghdad.
The ministry’s spokesman, Rifaq al-Araji, mainly held low water levels in the Euphrates responsible for the cholera outbreak in Iraq, saying that simmering temperatures during summer months may have activated the bacterium that causes the disease.
Araji said public awareness has helped stop the current cholera outbreak from spiraling out of control.
Meanwhile, mayor of Abu Ghraib Osman al-Ma’azidi told Arabic-language al-Sumaria satellite television network on Wednesday that cholera has claimed at least six more lives in the town, situated about 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of the capital.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It is a fast-developing infection that causes diarrhea, which can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly provided.
Iraq’s water and sewerage systems are old, and infrastructure development has been stalled by years of war and unrest.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered a set of measures aimed at improving hygiene, among them daily water quality tests, distribution of bottled water to families internally displaced due to the conflict, and the installation of additional water purification stations.
Iraq’s Education Ministry has also delayed the opening of primary schools to October 18 “to give the Health Ministry the chance to complete precautionary measures in all schools.”
The latest registered cholera outbreak in Iraq killed four people and infected some 300 others in the northern city of Kirkuk, situated 236 kilometers (147 miles) north of Baghdad and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in 2012. Five years before that, about 24 people died of the disease and over 4,000 cases were confirmed.
Iraq faces regular threats from other waterborne and food-borne diseases, such as measles, typhoid fever, hepatitis, and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever due to poor public services and hygiene, according to the World Health Organization.