Tracking cases of the cholera outbreak in West Africa
The United Nations and World Health Organization announced Thursday that the current total number of cholera cases in West Africa is 6,788, with 74 deaths recorded. However, WHO said it may take months to fully determine the scale of the spread of the disease, which is spread through contaminated food or water. Most affected countries in the region are Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The vast majority of cases — over half — have been reported in Guinea. Officials expect nearly all cases in Liberia to be contracted there in the coming days, but noted that some cases are occurring in the United States and elsewhere. A man who entered the United States from Guinea while traveling on a visa — though not after symptoms emerged — died from an infection in May, and a visitor to Nigeria who tested positive for cholera reportedly died in July from the disease.
Finding the source of the outbreak
The official website for Guinea National Cholera Control Center in Conakry said two years ago that it believed the spread of cholera in the country was due to contaminated food or water. However, the resurgence has now made health officials suspect that waste water from nearby refugee camps, which may be polluted with the bacteria, is behind the spread. There are also local rumors circulating that refugee children have become infected as a result of getting water from illicit wells and that those wells have now been contaminated by raw sewage dumped by local residents.
There is no cure for cholera, and there is little or no treatment available in the region. The United Nations has appealed for $1.2 billion over the next two years to deal with the outbreak.
Read the full story at The Guardian.
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