Home | News    Wednesday 15 August 2007

Flood-related cholera outbreak kills 49 in east Sudan

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August 14, 2007 (KASSALA, Sudan) — A cholera outbreak in eastern Sudan, which has spread due to devastating floods across the region, has killed 49 people and affected some 710 others, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official said on Tuesday.

Last year a cholera outbreak throughout Sudan killed 700 people and affected 25,000. It was the first time in many years the water-borne disease had been reported in Africa’s largest country.

WHO official Mohamed Abder Rab said all the recent cases had been reported in the eastern Gedaref state and Kassala town, with the first reported on April 19.

"The situation in Gedaref is not yet under control ... Flooding is spreading the water-borne disease," Rab told Reuters before travelling to the east to verify conditions in the region hit by the worst flooding in living memory in Sudan.

"Latrines are flooded ... houses are destroyed. People are living on the fringes. They don’t have proper drinking water or latrine facilities and hygiene is compromised," he added.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection spread by contaminated water or food. It causes vomiting and acute diarrhoea that can lead to dehydration and death within 24 hours, which if not treated can cause death within hours.

Doctor Sumaya Okud from Kassala’s ministry of health said people did not have access to clean water.

"During the first week...the floods affected the filter and tank system and all the people had to get their water from the main canal," she said. The canal was full of muddy, stagnant water.

Rab said Sudan’s government had been reluctant to announce the outbreak.

"Unfortunately the name cholera is still associated with a lot of concern and cause fear among the people," he said.

"Historically most governments don’t want to admit cholera because of the international ramifications and local ramifications," he said, adding it could affect tourism.

The little tourism Sudan has is mainly to its Red Sea diving resorts in the east or for Sudanese honeymooners to the picturesque Kassala town.

He said governments are required to report contagious diseases such as cholera.

"There are certain diseases that have a potential for international spread, cholera being one of them, and they have to be reported," he added.

Sudan borders nine African countries, with Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east.

"In Gedaref the fatality rate is about 6-7 percent," Rab said. "Normally we consider..anything beyond 2-3 percent is high."

(Reuters)

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