Cholera Outbreak Spreading in Iraq

World

At least 1,000 people have died as a result of the recent outbreak of cholera in Iraq, Iraqi members of parliament said.

Nawzad Rifaat, chairman of parliament's Health Commission, accused the government of hiding the "the real figure of cholera cases" urging the Health Ministry to provide detailed statics on deaths and cases without delay.

Parliamentary sources said they feared the disease was already out of control and the government had failed in efforts to have it contained.

"Hospitals are crammed with the patients who may exceed 10,000 who have already been afflicted with the disease," said one member of parliament, who refused to be named.

MPs spoke of at least 1,000 deaths so far.

The outbreak of cholera, a bacterial infection causing severe diarrhea and vomiting, was initially said to have been confined to Babil Province, where at least six people had died.

Officials say thousands of cases have been reported in other provinces in addition to Babil. Hospitals in the provinces of Diyala, Najaf and Karbala were strapped for resources to treat patients.

The coverage of the diseases has terrified the country's population. Local newspapers quote unidentified Health Ministry officials as fearing that the disease had reached epidemic proportions.

Health Ministry officials disputed the figures, saying they were "exaggerated."

"The ministry is mulling the possibility of suing officials who have reported huge numbers of cases, the thing that has frightened citizens," said Ihasan Jaafar, the ministry's spokesman.

However, Jaafar declined to give figures on the number of deaths the disease has caused and the number of patients in Iraqi hospitals.

A severe form of the disease causes sudden diarrhea, leading to dehydration and death within minutes.

Contaminated water is believed to be the main cause for transmitting the disease due to rusty and broken pipes through which sometimes heavy water is carried to household taps.

Running water is very scarce in many provinces, forcing people to drink from rivers or stagnant ponds.

Last year there were more than 4,000 confirmed cholera cases in Iraq -- the vast majority in the Kurdish-controlled northern region.

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