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Cholera epidemic infects over 160 people in Iraq: Health Ministry

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An Iraqi woman sits near her son suffering from cholera at a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, on September 21, 2015. (© Reuters)

Iraqi Health officials say the number of cholera cases in Iraq has exceeded the 160 mark as the country’s decrepit and unsanitary water system has facilitated the spread of the waterborne disease to southern provinces along the Euphrates River.

The Iraqi Health Ministry said on Friday that at least 161 cases had been confirmed in the country, and that there were no new deaths in days, Arabic-language al-Baghdadia satellite television network reported.

The ministry also called upon all Iraqi nationals to follow the instructions and guidelines in a bid to stop the current cholera outbreak from spiraling out of control.

Health Ministry spokesman Rifaq al-Araji has blamed the cholera epidemic in Iraq on low water levels in the Euphrates, noting that simmering temperatures during summer months may have activated the bacterium that causes the deadly disease.

The epidemic is concentrated in the town of Abu Ghraib, situated about 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of the capital, Baghdad, where cholera has claimed at least 10 lives.

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, while infrastructure development has been stalled by years of violence.

A patient suffering from cholera rests inside a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, on September 21, 2015. (© Reuters)


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 water-borne 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.

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