- After killing 32 and infecting 270 Guineans, the cholera epidemic in the country is showing signs of dying out. Deaths are now dropping rapidly and authorities in Guinea hope this means the outbreak is now under control.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) - which is heavily engaged in assisting Guinean authorities in fighting the cholera outbreak - yesterday confirmed to UN media that "the disease is on the decline now." Only three people had died last week compared to six the week before. Further, according to WHO, the number of new cases had slid back to 51 from 59 in the same period.
Although some dispersed cases of cholera have been registered in Guinea since the beginning of the year, there was first talk of an outbreak in late June as cases multiplied. More than 200 cases have been recorded since then, according to Guinean health authorities.
Guinean Health Minister Amara Cissé in early August issued an alert through national media. He told the state-run daily newspaper 'Horoya' that the Kindia prefecture, about 150 kilometres east of the capital Conakry, was worse hit by the outbreak. National health professionals had already been sent to the area to halt the spread of the disease.
According to Minister Cissé, the outbreak in Kindia started following strong rains and local floods that had caused drinking water sources to be contaminated. Cholera is a water-borne disease that often follows floods and other disasters were people are cut off from safe drinking water.
The Guinean Health Minister late last week again was quoted by 'Horoya' as saying that the death toll of the cholera outbreak now had reached 83. This is however rejected by WHO officials in the country, who keep track on epidemic statistics. WHO says a total of 32 Guineans have died of cholera this year.
Further, the WHO now claims to be in control of the cholera situation in the country despite Minister Cissé's recent alerts. The UN agency, which assists the Guinean Health Ministry, sees no reason to produce headlines out of the minor outbreak in Guinea. No alert has as yet been issued by WHO's 'Disease Outbreak News' service, which cover major outbreaks worldwide.
According to the latest 'Weekly Epidemiological Record', cholera outbreaks are currently registered in five African countries; Cameroon, Guinea, Liberia, Tanzania and Uganda. Only the situation in Cameroon and Uganda is of a sufficient scale to call it a full-fledged cholera outbreak. Only in Guinea and Uganda, however, WHO has registered cholera related deaths in August.
Guinea suffered two major cholera outbreaks in the last decade, in 1994 and 2000, which according to WHO statistics claimed an estimated total of 580 lives. Minor outbreaks and single infection cases are however recorded almost every year in the country. Poor water supply and regular shortages are held responsible.
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