Cameroon cholera epidemic kills nearly 500

08/19/2011 19:59

WireUpdate:  MAROUA, CAMEROON (BNO NEWS) -- A major cholera epidemic in parts of Cameroon has already claimed nearly 500 lives so far this month while more than 13,000 others have been sickened this year, CNN reported on Wednesday.

Public health officials said more than 50 people have died so far in August in the Far North region alone, the hardest-hit area. Residents in the Logone and Chari divisions of the region told CNN that the majority of people infected with the disease are children under the age of five and women.

Prof. Gervais Ondobo Andze, the director of disease control at the Ministry of Public Health, told journalists on Monday that nine of the country's 10 regions are affected by cholera, an intestinal infection caused by ingestion of bacteria-contaminated food or water. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 80 percent of cases can be cured by rehydrating the patient.

In Maroua, the capital of the Far North region, 1,380 cases of cholera have been reported so far this year, according to officials. Dr. Valentine Ndikum, a senior public health official, said the number could double in the coming days due to poor sanitary and hygienic conditions because of what he said was a slow government response.

Andze told CNN on Tuesday that the government has opened treatment centers across the country, but he emphasized that the battle against the disease must be a collective effort from both the government and the local population. He advised people to drink only potable water and not get their water from rivers, which can carry the disease.

The outbreak, which began in May 2010, has been traced to the Logone River on which thousands depend for their domestic activities. The semi-arid region has an erratic supply of potable water, usually only accessible by the privileged.

Voters will go to the polls to elect a new president in October and critics say political campaigns are outpacing health priorities. "The ruling party, the Cameroon's People Democratic Movement, is visibly pumping billions into political campaigns and safari trips abroad. Why can't they allocate money to eliminate a simple disease like cholera?" a resident of Maroua asked, as cited by CNN.

At least 9,395 cholera cases were reported in Cameroon in 2010. According to the government's Public Health Ministry, 8,830 were in the Far North region.

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