KUWAIT CITY, Nov 6, (Agencies): Health Ministry denied rumors on cholera outbreak in the country, after it has spread in Iraq, Ministry official announced on Friday.
Assistant Undersecretary of Public Health Affairs at the Ministry Dr Majidah Al-Qattan told KUNA that five cases of cholera, in fact, were confirmed in the country, that last of which was recorded on Oct 5. She added all cases of the disease came from Iraq and they were all fully treated.
She pointed out that the Health Ministry is taking all necessary precautions to spot any suspected cases of cholera; laboratories are fully set and physicians are made aware to conduct special diagnosis to determine the disease.
She added special handling protocols of the disease from World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been distributed to all treatment centers in the country. Al-Qattan said that the Ministry is following up on any updates of the cholera outbreak in Iraq. She advised people, especially children, pregnant women and those of poor health, to postpone their travel plans to the neighboring country up north.
Travellers from Iraq, meanwhile, should visit the nearest health centers as soon as possible once they witness acute diarrhoeal infection within seven days of their arrival. Neither contaminated water or food sources should be touched nor should it be carried while travelling, she cautioned.
Earlier, UNICEF’s Iraq director Peter Hawkins announced that a cholera outbreak in Iraq has spread to neighbouring Syria, Kuwait and Bahrain, and risks turning into a region-wide epidemic as millions of pilgrims prepare to visit the country. “It (the outbreak) already has a regional dynamic and the risk of that can only be increased by people from all over the region coming into Iraq,” he added.
Hawkins said cholera had spread to Bahrain, Kuwait and Syria but, in a later statement, UNICEF said the cases in Syria were not confirmed: “However, given the scale of the outbreak in Iraq the risk of cholera spreading across Iraq’s borders remains high,” it said. Millions of Shi’ite Muslims are due to visit Iraq in December for Arbaeen, a religious ritual marking the end of an annual mourning period for the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) grandson Hussein, whose death in 680 AD entrenched the schism between Shi’ites and Sunnis.
Hawkins said UNICEF was working with clerics in the Shi’ite shrine cities of Najaf and Kerbala to convey information about how to guard against cholera, which is endemic in Iraq and the wider region. The outbreak can be traced to a number of factors including low water levels in the Euphrates and winter flooding that has contaminated the river and shallow wells with sewage water.
The war against Islamic State militants who control large swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq has also contributed to the outbreak.
The conflict has displaced more than 3 million people, with many living in camps where conditions are conducive to the spread of cholera — a bite of contaminated food or a sip of contaminated water is enough to cause infection. Hawkins said UNICEF has only limited access to areas controlled by Islamic State, which swept across the Syrian border in mid-2014 in a bid to establish a modern caliphate.