GENEVA (Reuters) - Nearly 7,000 people in northern Iraq have been afflicted with cholera in past weeks, and 10 have died from the diarrhoeal disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.
Fadela Chaib, a spokeswoman for the United Nations agency, said the precise source of the outbreak spanning three governorates -- Sulaimaniya, Kirkuk and Erbil -- was not yet clear, though polluted water was thought to be the cause.
All public water systems in the affected areas have been chlorinated, and samples are being regularly collected and tested to ensure potable water standards are met, she said.
A woman allegedly contaminated with cholera, is seen in a hospital in Sulaimaniya in Iraq in this August 29, 2007 file photo. (REUTERS/Sherko Raouf)"In controlling the spread of cholera WHO does not recommend any special restrictions to travel or trade to or from affected areas," the Geneva-based agency said in a statement.
According to WHO figures, more than 3,000 people in Sulaimaniya fell ill with acute water diarrhoea linked to cholera between Aug. 23 and Sept. 6. Nine people there died.
Kirkuk had more than 3,700 cases of acute diarrhoeal disease, and one related death between July 29 and Sept. 2. Kirkuk has its first case of cholera confirmed on Aug. 14, and six laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera have been recently been reported in Erbil, the WHO said in a statement.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), and United Nations agencies including UNICEF and the U.N. Development Programme have joined WHO efforts to respond to the cholera epidemic.
These groups have been distributing antibiotics and oral rehydration salts, supporting water monitoring, and educating the public about ways to avoid cholera, which can kill even healthy people in a few hours due to dehydration, Chaib said.
Sudden, large outbreaks of cholera are usually caused by a contaminated water supply. The disease is rarely transmitted by person-to-person contact.