Ebola distracts from worsening Cameroon cholera outbreak




DAKAR/YAOUNDE: A cholera epidemic in northern Cameroon has killed at least 65 people and probably infected about 1,300 people in two months, as international attention has been diverted to fighting Ebola in West Africa, health experts said on Saturday. They said the insurgency by Islamist sect Boko Haram was also hampering efforts to control the outbreak. Some 185 suspected cholera cases were recorded last week alone in the outbreak focused on the Mogode, Hina and Bourha districts on the turbulent Nigerian border. The death toll is expected to climb as more cases are confirmed by laboratory testing. Atilio Rivera-Vasquez, public health adviser in the region for International Medical Corps, said Cameroonian health authorities were diverting resources to impose checks at border crossing and airports for Ebola, after it killed more than 700 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. “This is distracting from an appropriate and fast response to this cholera epidemic,” Rivera-Vasquez said. He added that the violent activities of Boko Haram in neighbouring northern Nigeria partly explained why the outbreak was not being brought under control. Cameroon has some 100,000 double-doses of an oral cholera vaccine that showed high efficacy in a 2012 trial in Guinea. However, insecurity in the north has deterred the government from immunizing. The cholera outbreak has shown a worrying increase in mortality in the last few months, he said, rising to 4.8 percent or more than double the 2 percent maximum cited in World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. Julian Schlubach, from the European Union’s aid agency, ECHO, said the situation was alarming because the rainy season - the worst time for cholera - still lay ahead. Cholera is an acute intestinal illness that brings severe stomach aches, diarrhoea and vomiting, causing severe dehydration and even death if untreated. It is commonly contracted by drinking water or consuming foods contaminated with cholera bacteria. 

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