Follow up (AIN) -Under the provision of the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005), the Iraqi Ministry of Health, in consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared on 15 September 2015 a cholera outbreak in governorates of Najaf, Diwaniya, and parts of west Baghdad and announced stepping up necessary measures taken to stop the transmission of the event and prevent further spread of the disease.
The declaration came after a sudden increase of acute watery diarrhea diseases cases and laboratory tests done in the Central Public Health Laboratory confirmed the presence of Vibrio cholera 01 Inaba in 38 out of a total of 106 stool samples tested. A Cholera Task Force- (CTF) comprising officials from the MOH, WHO, and other UN partners has been set up to lead the response and coordinate with local health authorities in the affected areas to control this disease which can, if not timely controlled, spread rapidly and widely.
“The Ministry of Health is closely monitoring the situation and the implementation of the country cholera contingency plan has immediately been stepped up. We already started positioning and distributing medicines and other supplies for case management to locations where they are most needed.” said Dr Adela Hamoud, the Iraqi Minister of Health who added “We expect the number of cases to increase within the coming days but we are working with WHO and other health partners to manage this situation and contain the spread of the bacteria to other high risk governorates in the country”.
Field investigation teams and healthcare providers have been deployed to affected areas for strengthening surveillance, investigation, case findings and standardize case management. Similarly, water authorities at the national and subnational levels have started to take actions aimed at improving the quality and safety of water supply in affected areas, through chlorination, periodic monitoring of the quality of water and hygiene promotion.
Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that causes massive loss of body fluids and can be deadly within hours if not adequately treated. WHO is taking all the necessary control measures to support the MOH and other health partners to respond to the situation urgently and ensure that the public health risk posed by this outbreak is urgently mitigated” said Mr Altaf Musani, WHO Acting Representative.
While the outbreak is only localized to a limited number of governorates, there is an urgent need to increasing health promotion and education activities, not only within communities across the country but also in settlements with vulnerable populations such as IDPs who have reached a staggering number of 3.2 million.
At present there is no significant risk of international spread. However the situation being robustly monitored to rapidly identify any sign or risks of spread of the disease to other places in the wake of the massive unintentional displacement as well as intentional pilgrimage movement across borders./End/