Back in Time: Cholera Outbreak In Iraq Exceeds 2,000 Cases in 2015

Back in Time is ED’s newspaper type column that reports an incident from the past as though it has happened just yesterday. It allows the reader to re-live it, on the date it had occurred.

For this incident, we go back in time to November 2015. 

2015, November 9: Contaminated water in areas of Iraq has caused an outbreak of cholera to worsen, with over 2,000 cases reported as of November 9, 2015, according to figures disclosed by government officials. The bacterial disease can cause dehydration and kidney failure, and can be fatal if left untreated.

This latest epidemic is thought to be caused by the collapsing of infrastructure which has lead to poor sanitation. Cases of the disease were first reported in September, 2015.

What Is Cholera?

Cholera is an intestinal infection common in areas with insufficient sanitation, and poor access to clean drinking water. It is mainly transmitted through water, but the bacteria can also be found in food as well. Symptoms of cholera include vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. It can be cured easily when treated quickly, but if victims become severely dehydrated, they can die from the disease.

2,217 Cases Reported, and Six People Have Died

A United Nations (UN) spokesperson has confirmed that 2,217 people have been diagnosed with cholera in 15 of 18 governorates of the country. One in 5 of those who have contracted the disease are children, prompting the UN to seek assistance from its UNICEF branch, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

So far, six people have been confirmed dead. Officials are fearful that if the outbreak is not quickly contained, the disease will spread unchecked to neighbouring countries including Kuwait and Bahrain. Those countries have already seen a few cases of cholera, but nowhere near the amount reported in Iraq.

Weather Issues and Religious Pilgrimages Could Worsen the Spread

Low water levels in the Euphrates River were initially thought to have kicked off the epidemic, but a recent period of heavy rainfall has exacerbated the problem because sewage and drainage systems are in disrepair, and unable to handle the overflow of water. Flooding causes further contamination in water, allowing disease to spread quickly and easily.

There are several important religious dates coming up, and Iraq is expecting millions to embark on pilgrimages to holy sites in cities including Baghdad and Karbala, to mark the Shia commemorations of Ashoura, and Arbaeen. It is feared that people might contract cholera while in Iraq, and possibly spread the disease once they have returned to their homes.

The UN has taken measures to prevent further spread of cholera by alerting imams to advise people to take precautions, and providing 820,000 doses of oral rehydration salts to help adults and children recover.

WHO Completes First Round of Cholera Vaccinations

The World Health Organization recently completed its first round of cholera vaccinations in Iraq, targeting 225,000 Syrian refugees in the country, and displaced Iraqis residing in refugee camps throughout the country.

The vaccine being used is Shanchol, and requires two rounds of injections in order to be optimally effective. The second round of vaccinations in scheduled to commence in early December, and the inoculations will provide protection for those at high risk for cholera for about five years.

Source: Divya Bhaskar

Visit Divya Bhaskar for more International news updates.


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