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Cholera outbreak kills 34 in south Sudan - WHO

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Feb 15, 2006 (NAIROBI) — At least 34 people have died in the last two weeks in a suspected cholera outbreak in southern Sudan that has taken nearly 1,500 ill, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

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UNICEF photo shows casualties of a Cholera outbreak in the town of Yei, south Sudan, Feb 15, 2006.

The deaths and illnesses with cholera-like symptoms were first reported in town of Yei in late January and have spread to the southern Sudanese capital of Juba, WHO said in a statement released in the capital of neighboring Kenya.

"Thirty-four deaths and over 1,400 cases have so far been reported," it said, adding that about of the ill were children suffering from acute diarrhoea.

Only one case of cholera has thus far been confirmed but health officials have warned of catastrophe if the disease hits Juba, a city of about 250,000 people, most of whom depend on the polluted and untreated waters of the Nile.

"Access to safe water, health services and education in southern Sudan is among the worst in the world," the WHO statement said, adding that less than a third of southern Sudan’s estimated 10 million people have such access.

It said the UN Children’s Fund had delivered health and nutritional supplies as well as water treatment equipment to Juba, as part of an expanded emergency response to the diarrhoea outbreak and the potential for the rapid spread of cholera.

A highly contagious and potentially fatal disease, cholera thrives in conditions of poor hygiene and inadequate water supplies. It is generally caused by using dirty water for drinking and cooking.

It leads to severe diarrhoea, dehydration and sometimes death.

Earlier, it was reported that eight people have died in the last two weeks in a cholera outbreak in southern Cameroon and another 23 have been infected, the country’s health ministry said.

The deaths and illnesses have been reported around the town of Akonolinga, 140 kilometres (about 85 miles) east of the capital Yaounde.

According to the ministry the disease spread after the body of someone who had died at Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon, was transferred to Akonolinga.

"The situation is now under control and cases of death and illness are starring to drop," a local doctor who did not want to be identified said.

"It is an community-type epidemic that has killed eight people because they were in contact with the body but it should be noted that those who went to health centres were all saved," Dr Emmanuel Ngapana of the national epidemological committee said.

From January 2004 to April 2005 more than 8,500 cases of cholera were registered in Cameroon, and 174 deaths were recorded.

(ST/AFP)

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