Baghdad — The World Health Organization on Thursday confirmed the first cholera case in Baghdad, raising fears the disease is spreading.
A 25-year-old woman from western Baghdad was found to have cholera after she turned up at the hospital with a severe case of diarrhea, said Dr. Naeema al-Gasseer, the WHO’s representative in Iraq.
Cholera is a gastrointestinal disease that is typically spread by drinking contaminated water and can cause severe diarrhea that in extreme cases can lead to fatal dehydration. It broke out in mid-August but had been limited to northern Iraq.
Several suspected cases had been reported in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, but al-Gasseer said none of those had been confirmed.
The latest WHO report, dated Sept. 14, reported a total of 24,532 cases of people with symptoms of cholera such as diarrhea and vomiting in the northern provinces of Sulaimaniyah, Tamim and Irbil. It said 10 people have died – nine in Sulaimaniyah and one in Tamim.
Al-Gasseer said health authorities were concerned that the disease could be spread through the movement of people within Iraq’s borders, which have seen hundreds of thousands of displaced people fleeing their homes because of the violence.
“We need to look at safe water, safe import of food, hygiene, the network of water and the network of sewage disposal,” al-Gasseer said in a telephone interview.
She also said some 100,000 tons of chlorine were being held up at Iraq’s border with Jordan apparently because of fears the chemical could be used in explosives. She urged authorities to release it for use in decontaminating water supplies.