Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Iraq Cholera Cases Double In Two Weeks

By Cernig

As if Iraq doesn't have enough troubles.
The number of cholera cases in Iraq has more than doubled in just under two weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement in Geneva Wednesday, confirming reports from within the country that the disease is likely to spread. The WHO says it estimates 30,000 people are now suffering acute watery diarrhoea, one of the first signs of the disease. Up to 3,315 cases have been confirmed compared with 1,500 just 12 days ago and 14 people have died.

Cholera had now spread to 9 out of 18 provinces across Iraq since it was first diagnosed in mid-August in the northern city of Kirkuk, which still has the majority of cases (2,309) followed by Sulaymaniah (870).

The WHO said it was "highly possible" the outbreak, caused mainly by contaminated water, would spread to areas unaffected so far. The number of cases had remained stable in Basra, Baghdad, Dahuk, Mosul and Tikrit but the first case had been confirmed in Wasit.
0.4% death rate doesn't seem like much from a distance - and indeed is far, far better than used to be expected from Cholera outbreaks a hundred and more years ago - but there are 25 million people in Iraq and 0.4% in an epidemic could still add up to tens of thousands. As the number of cases rises, local medical resources become exhausted and increasingly unable to cope, which pushes up fatalities. The last major cholera epidemic, in South America in 1992, had a fatality rate of less than 0.1% and still killed 10,000 people.

It should be pretty clear to any lucid mind that a major humanitarian Surge is needed in Iraq right now - but there's precious little talk among the Serious People of providing one.

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