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Iraq reports cholera outbreak

  • Story Highlights
  • War-battered water and sanitation infrastructure blamed for outbreak of cholera
  • Ailment flared last year in Iraq, mainly in northern provinces
  • Government has launched efforts to control outbreak
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From Jomana Karadsheh and Mohammed Jamjoom
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi officials say at least five people have died during an outbreak of cholera, a waterborne disease believed to be spread through the country's war-battered water and sanitation infrastructure.

Health Minister Salih al-Hasnawi said the five are among 36 cases that have been confirmed in Baghdad and provinces of Maysan and Babil south of the capital. There are at least 86 other suspected cases.

Al-Hasnawi said many cases are in the Hashimiya area south of Baghdad and in other remote villages not on the water grid.

The disease is caused by contaminated water, long a fact of life in a country plagued by a deteriorating or destroyed water system. Many people with cholera suffer acute watery diarrhea, which leads to severe dehydration.

The ailment flared last year in Iraq, mostly in northern provinces and in some cases elsewhere, said the World Health Organization, which counted nearly 4,700 cases and 24 deaths.

The Iraqi government initiated efforts to contain the spread of the ailment last year, but it remains challenged this year by the widespread infrastructure problems.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday also reported the outbreak, but it said there had been 21 confirmed cases and three deaths of people who tested positive for the bacterium causing the disease.

Iraq is attempting to improve its water and sanitation systems and ensure safe water supplies. Measures include the mobilization of water tankers and the testing of water and workers who handle water.

Local media reports say Jordan and Kuwait have banned non-canned foods from Iraq in light of the outbreak.

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